September 10, 2009

The Parable of the Frogs

One who knows “enough is enough” always has enough.

Tao Te Ching

What does it take to produce large-scale social change? Most historians, if you catch them in an honest moment, will admit that the popular levers of social change, such as education or legislation, are bogus; they don’t really amount to very much. What does make a difference–and then only potentially–is massive systemic breakdown, such as occurred in the United States in the fall of 2008. It was the greatest market crash since 1929, leading to widespread unemployment (something like 20% of the population, in real–as opposed to official–statistics) and the loss of billions of dollars in retirement savings. It had been many decades since the middle class found itself in soup kitchens, and yet there they were. In the face of all this, however, very little seems to have changed. Americans are still committed to the dream of unlimited abundance as a “reasonable” goal, when in reality it is (and always has been) the dream of an addict. President Obama’s $12 trillion bailout and stimulus plan is funneling money into the very banking establishment that gave us the disaster; it rescues the wealthy, not those who really need the money. And while he could have appointed economic advisers such as Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz (both Nobel laureates), who would have attempted to put the nation on a different economic path, he chose instead two traditional neoliberal ideologues, Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers, who believe in the very policies that led to the crash. “Change we can believe in” has never sounded more hollow.

The metaphor of addiction is extremely relevant to situations such as these, because addicts always seek to maximize their intake (or behavior) rather than optimize it, even though the former leads to self-destruction. In the face of what seems to be biologically driven activity, reason doesn’t have much of a chance. An experiment with frogs some years ago demonstrated this quite clearly. They were wired up with electrodes in the pleasure center of the brain, and could stimulate that center–i.e., create a “rush”–by pressing a metal bar. Not only did the frogs keep pressing the bar over and over again, but they didn’t stop even when their legs were cut off with a pair of shears And if you are going to object that human beings are not frogs, then you obviously haven’t been reading the daily newspapers, or observing the behavior of the people around you.

There are, of course, a few intelligent frogs around, ones who struggle to point out the difference between optima and maxima. They don’t have much of an audience, as you might expect, but inasmuch as this column has no pretensions to making a difference in the real world, let’s put the matter of popularity aside and concentrate on the ideas instead.

The first intelligent frog who comes to mind is the anthropologist Gregory Bateson, perhaps most famous for having been married to Margaret Mead. For Bateson, the issue was an ethical one. As he himself put it, “the ethics of optima and the ethics of maxima are totally different ethical systems.” The ethics of maxima knows only one rule: more. More is better, in this scheme of things; words such as “limits” or “enough” are either foolish or meaningless. Clearly, the “American Way of Life” is a system of maxima, of indefinite expansion.

But what if the reality of all social systems is that they are homeostatic, which is to say, designed to stay in balance? In that case, said Bateson, the attempt to maximize any single variable (for example, wealth) will eventually push the system into runaway, such that it will destroy itself. To take a physiological analogy, we recognize that the human body needs only so much calcium per day. We do not say, “The more calcium I ingest, the better off I’ll be,” because we recognize that past a certain point any chemical element becomes toxic to an organism. Yet we seem to be unable to extend this insight to the social or economic realm. We do not say, for example, “That company is making too much profit,” or “That individual (Bill Gates, Carlos Slim) has too much money for one person,” or “The Gross Domestic Product is spinning out of control.” Rather than being interested in balance, in stability, we are fascinated by asymptotes–frogs at the bar of pleasure, even while our legs are being cut off. We don’t get it, that if you fight the ecology of a system, you lose, especially when you “win”.

Maximizing a single variable, wrote Bateson, can seem like an ingenious adaptation, but over time it typically turns into pathology. The saber teeth of a tiger may have had short-range survival value, but this development weakened its flexibility in other situations that proved to be crucial. The “favored” species became so “favored” that it destroyed its own ecological niche, and disappeared. A gain at one level became a calamity at another.

In recent months, two American scholars of the intelligent frog variety began to understand this line of reasoning and to conclude from it that Adam Smith, with his theory of the “invisible hand”, was wrong. An early version of Gordon Gekko, with his eulogy of greed (in Oliver Stone’s 1987 film, Wall Street), Smith argued that the collective result of individual self-interest was the prosperity of the whole. But the economist Robert Frank, writing in the New York Times (12 July 2009), argues that “traits that help individuals are harmful to larger groups. For instance,” he goes on,

“a mutation for larger antlers served the reproductive interests of an individual male elk, because it helped him prevail in battles with other males for access to mates. But as this mutation spread, it started an arms race that made life more hazardous for male elk over all. The antlers of male elk can now span five feet or more. And despite their utility in battle, they often become a fatal handicap when predators pursue males into dense woods.”

In the case of the market, says Frank, individual reward structures undermine the invisible hand. “To make their funds more attractive to investors,” he writes, “money managers create complex securities that impose serious, if often well-camouflaged, risks on society. But when all managers take such steps, they are mutually offsetting. No one benefits, yet the risk of financial crises rises sharply.”

Similarly, U.S. Appeals Court Judge Richard Posner, in A Failure of Capitalism, points out that the crash of 2008 was brought about by individual actions that were actually quite rational: bankers and investors pursuing their own interests. Reckless behavior was quite consistent, he says, with being well informed about the risks involved in the context of an economic bubble, and so a great many money managers took those risks. The problem is that what was rational on the individual level was irrational on the collective level, thus leading to a systemic collapse.

We are thus led, quite naturally, from a consideration of optima vs. maxima to the question of individual vs. collective behavior. Which brings me to one of the twentieth century’s most intelligent frogs, the biologist Garrett Hardin, who posed the dilemma in a famous essay entitled “The Tragedy of the Commons” (1968). Consider, said Hardin, the example of a pasture shared by local herders. They all understand that the commons belongs to no one in particular, but supports the well being of all and is the responsibility of all. One day, however, one of the herders puts an additional animal out to graze, with the result that he increases his yield. The pasture, however, is slightly degraded by this. Meanwhile, other herders come to the same conclusion, and as each makes the rational decision to take advantage of the situation for personal gain, the net result is the overgrazing, and ultimately the destruction, of the common area. In a word, the system favors selfish individuals over those with greater foresight and restraint. Or as Hardin put it, “Freedom in a commons brings ruin to all.” Frogs, in a word, are not to be trusted.

How, then, can excess be curbed in a free democratic system? For we can be sure that the intelligent frogs, who are really quite exceptional, are not going to be listened to, and certainly have no power to enforce their insights. True, there are certain countries–the Scandanavian nations come to mind–where for some reason the concentration of intelligent frogs is unusually high, resulting in decisions designed to protect the commons. But on a world scale, this is not very typical. More typical, and (sad to say) a model for most of Latin America, is the United States, where proposed “changes” are in fact cosmetic, and where the reality is business as usual. In the context of 306 million highly addicted frogs, the voices of the smart ones–Bateson, Frank, Posner, Hardin, et al.–aren’t going to have much impact or, truth be told, even get heard.

Of course, authoritarian systems don’t have these problems, which is a good indicator of how things will probably develop. Under the name of “harmony”, for example, China regulates its citizens for what it perceives to be the common good. Hence the famous one-child policy, introduced in 1979, supposedly prevented more than 300 million births over the next 29 years in a country that was threatened by its own population density. In the case of the United States, the imposition of rules and limits on individual behavior to protect the commons is not, at present, a realistic prospect; the population is simply not having it, end of story. But how much longer before this freedom of choice is regarded as an impossible luxury? In fact, no crystal ball is required to predict the future here. The tragedy of the commons–what Hardin called “the remorseless working of things”–is that a society like the U.S. won’t undertake serious changes even when it is sitting on the edge of an abyss. It has to actually be in the abyss before it will entertain such changes; i.e., it has to be faced with no choice at all. It seems unlikely now, but things are probably moving faster than we realize. In terms of population, food, resources, water, social inequality, public health, and environmental degradation, a crunch of the type I am referring to may be only twenty years away.

In Shakespeare’s Two Gentlemen of Verona, the character Valentine is confronted by an outlaw, who asks him if he is content “To make a virtue of necessity/And live, as we do, in this wilderness?” That may prove to be the only “choice” we have. As Thomas Hobbes put it, a few decades after Shakespeare, “Hell is truth seen too late.”

©Morris Berman, 2009


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Mr. Berman that was a excellent article that was totally on point. I have so much to say and do not know where to begin and understand that I must keep it fairly short. Well to put this as short as I can with my mind running over with chapters of things to say. America you wanted to have a heart full of evil and hatred, you wanted a society with institutionalized racism and injustices with some of the most ignorant evil corrupt people running it, you wanted your pull yourself up by your bootstrap bull crap well you certainly got what you wanted didn't ya. As time goes by and you continue to slip in the jaws of poverty and despair and hopelessnes like the kind you put on us African Americans don't start crying now. Stand up bend over and take it like a true American. Lord knows I am and will continue to enjoy you reap what you have been sowing but will enjoy if from afar off because I aint going down wit ya.LOL I better end here before I go overboard. Keep posting Mr.Berman I enjoy reading the truths that you speak to power.

3:29 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Anon,

Thanks for writing. One thing I'm absolutely sure of, however, is that power is not listening!

Gregory Bateson was once asked why, if he saw the US as a large collection of lemmings running over the edge of a cliff, leaping to their collective deaths, he bothered to write at all. "Well," he replied, "at least one lemming needs to stand aside and say, 'Oh look at all those lemmings, leaping to their deaths.'"

Q.E.D., as they say in mathematics.

9:03 PM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman, Your post could not have been more timely. Today in the NYT is an article proving once again the wealthy and their accomplices in government are still (a year after the crash) looking out for Number One and setting the rest of us up for financial disaster. Nor is there any real health care debate either. In every commentary I've read not one person has asked why it should take four years to set up a public option when existing programs could be opened to the millions who need it within a year. Four years will give insurance companies plenty of time to gut any real reform in this option, so, once again, the few gain and rest lose.
Your insights on addiction are correct---more is always the direction and only stopping the behavior or the substance works. That's why the longer an addict doesn't use the greater his chances are of recovery. If for one month, or maybe even one week, we would not go shopping or turn off the TV set I wonder if we could have the beginnings of a new country. The level of stimulation on TV and in the movies has gotten more extreme too---"talent" shows are more about outrageous performances, movies about slow-motion multiple explosions and political discussion is vitriolic.
I watched Manufacturing Consent the other night and there aren't many smart frogs like him, you and others you mentioned. I guess they're just too many cunning frogs on the other side of the fence determined to marginalize and silence them.

10:59 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...


You and your readers might find interesting the article "Economics Is Not Natural Science", by Douglas Rushkoff:

His thesis:

"[E]conomic theories are selecting examples from nature to confirm the properties of a wholly designed marketplace: self-interested actors, inevitable equilibrium, a scarcity of resources, competition for survival. In doing so, they confirm — or at the very least, reinforce — the false idea that the laws of an artificially scarce fiscal scheme are a species' inheritance rather than a social construction enforced with gunpowder. At the very least, the language of science confers undeserved authority on [...] blindly accepted economic assumptions".

Rest assured that "power" won't be listening to Rushkoff, either!

12:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose the question is this, from the point of view of those with any awareness at all what can one do? Where can one go? Sweden? I am 56 years old and continue to work for ever dwindling pay. I could probably get by with street signs in some foreign land but I don't think I'd fare much better considering my age and lack of foreign language skills. (I don't speak Swedish) Not to mention, the stretch of American hegemony is far and wide... the frogs are everywhere... I could consider myself lucky that I don't require much to be happy but costs on everything are up. That, and being surrounded by the insanity of everyday American (non) culture. I suppose, like you say, when there is nothing left to lose people wake up... but wake up to what? I feel like one of those monks in the new monastic order you refer to in "Twilight". Awaiting the dawning of a new age of enlightenment....trouble is I probably won't live long enough to see it... maybe that's a good thing considering we haven't really hit bottom yet...I guess it's all part of the struggle of humanity... being 'human beings'. Author Calvin Luther Martin (his real name) has an interesting book on the subject.."The Way of The Human Being". My $.02

1:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting collection of people you cite: Posner, Adam Smith, Bateson, and Hardin. If there is an underlying, governing stratum to our reality, it must be biology, so listening more carefully to those folks would behoove us. But except for a small minority, we lack the insight.

It's worth noting that classical economists such as Adam Smith had serious reservations about the commercial society they saw coalescing around them. Citing Smith as though he was a market fundamentalist (before such a tag existed) is by now a common, clichéd reduction. Also, Posner's economic analyses have been criticized roundly on methodological grounds, as though his points are thereby fully invalidated. Again, not very smart.

Finally, the Schadenfreude your anonymous commenter expressed is obvious enough, but I daresay that as a result of America's glamorous albeit temporary success, we have unwittingly managed to wreck things for other nations, which will suffer alongside us. Like the elk and the frog, we've adapted and behaved in ways that doom our long-term future. There is plenty of handwringing and blaming to go around, but in a sense, it's an inescapable part of our nature and our destiny.

1:42 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Thank you all for your thoughtful comments. Never forget the bottom line here: frogs are dumb, and the US has the highest frog density (morons per hectare) of any country in the world. While I regard Mr. Obama as a pretty spineless politician, and as basically a corporate-pentagon hologram (are you aware he hasn't even terminated Clinton's extraordinary rendition program?), there is the very practical issue of what the hell any politician in his position can do, even if his intentions were truly left-wing. Consider the collection of clowns in Colonial garb that descended on Wash DC on Sept. 12, to protest his "socialism." Man, when you've got frogs like these in the streets, you know that real change is impossible (in this context it would delegitimize the state). Let's face it: any 'revolution' or fundamental change that might occur in the US will occur from the Right.

Some useful refs, in any case: Charles Pierce, "Idiot America"; Max Blumenthal, "Republican Gemorrah"; Chris Hedges, "Empire of Illusion"; Sheldon Wolin, "Democracy Inc." Good anti-frog material. Also Krugman's 6 Sept 09 NYT article, "How did economists get it so wrong?"

As for my non-Swedish speaking friend: agreed, it won't be easy, but 56 is not that old, amigo; I was 62 when I crossed over to Mexico. I'd say go, throw the dice, see what happens. You know what will happen if you stay here. And although I don't want to encourage immigration to Mexico (we've got enuf gringos here, gracias!), the crucial issue, as ever, is health insurance. You can have $2m in the bank in the US and lose it in 4 years because of a serious illness--this even if you *have* health ins, as Michael Moore demonstrates in "Sicko". I actually have very little money, but the thing abt ins. co's in Mexico, and in many other countries, is this: they pay up! You don't have these gigantic monthly premiums and then when you get sick and put in a claim, get a check for $57 after 6 mos. of contentious correspondence (that actually happened to me when I was living up north). During the last 2 years I was faced with 2 serious health problems, one of which led to an operation, the other to months of physical therapy. Thank god, insurance co's down here are real, and they hefted most of the bill, as per contract. In the US, I would have been impoverished by now--and that's no exaggeration. In short: look around. You do *not* want to end your life in a country committed to endless imperial wars, and to not having any social safety net. The chances that the quality of your life will drop significantly between age 56 and 86 is about 100% if you choose to stay.

As for biology: we can work with it or against it, and as Bateson made clear, the US chooses to work against it. We didn't *have* to enhance these destructive tendencies, but we did (see my post on "conspiracy vs. Conspiracy"). After all, if the Scandanavian countries manage to protect the commons, how hard wired can US foolishness be?

3:47 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Prof. Berman,

Leaping from frogs to elephants for a moment... In light of your "serious health problems" the last couple of years, I'm wondering what you think of Michael Pollan's recent NY Times article, "Big Food vs. Big Insurance"? Pollan writes: "Even the most efficient health care system that the administration could hope to devise would still confront a rising tide of chronic disease linked to diet... The American way of eating has become the elephant in the room in the debate over health care... To keep from bankrupting ourselves, we will then have to get to work on improving our health-- which means going to work on the American way of eating." We *do* need a social safety net, but this is one area where we could provide ourselves with a little extra "insurance".

6:26 PM  

Dear Morris
I thinf that a strange notion of a comun space, certain circle fused by a misterious fire, has been systematically abandoned by the one’s who seak a truth in the wholeness of a lonely ilusion, a piece with a me, myself and I, trinity in infinity, the agreed colective lie of lonely bodies who just believe have solid souls. Jorge Teiller (the best chilean poet) looks for this abandoned space in his “poesía lárica”.

While massive systemic breakdown is a logical effect pulled by invisible threads (or hand) so there is no one to blame, large-scale social change is a mesianic need of little dreamy gods that want to be seen and loved to maximize a feeling of certainty, a harmful prosperity for the “whole”, which is not the real need of the colective “laar”, the optimized colective and homeostatic situation. Reason (a process of individual self-interest to allegedly reach the “whole” creating what you call a pleasure-rush justified by the ethics of more-maxima) I think is a charitable lie, that blinds the feeling to contact with “limited embodied” others and the real world with us in it.

How can we rebuild that colective space my friend, that ethical system of optima that Bateson calls out against the american way of life and indefinite expansion of the individual liberty for “favored winners or choosen ones”, in this case their single variable that has pushed the ecology of the system into runaway? Who really gains something with this social calamity? Not the addict americans I’m guessing, who bet on a well-camouflaged imposible do. Why do millions believe they can actually win the jackpot?

Again, thanks for your articles.

7:19 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Art,

You are certainly correct, but in my case, the health problems weren't connected to diet in any way that I can see. (Unless one wants to go totally holistic and insist that everything is related to everything else; which is a stretch, I think.)

Andres: 1st of all, you should be calling me Mauricio. What if I were to call you Andy?

2nd, I think you may have been reading too much mystical poetry, which can sometimes be worse than a bad diet, and can lead to mental indigestion. Which is another way of saying, I'm not sure I know what you are talking about.

And I'm also not sure that large-scale social change is a messianic need. I mean, it happens, historically speaking. Not that often, but (e.g.) civilizations do rise and fall. And I'm guessing I have a higher opinion of reason than you do. Let's face it, you're a bright guy; you wouldn't want to be without it.

Estamos en contacto,


9:24 PM  
Blogger Mike Cifone said...

Dear Friends,

Perhaps you've seen this article already:

12:07 AM  
Blogger jjarden said...

Outstanding commentary Morris.

I'm really torn at this point in my 46 year old life. I've always been a believer and defender of Capitalism, Individualism, Ayn Rand's Objectivism, and Smith's "Invisible Hand," and a critic of Socialism, but the older I get, and the more I see happening in the US economy, I'm not so sure anymore that I'm in the right camp. One author I don't remember said he is a "Two-Cheers for Capitalism" kind of guy. I'm at that point now. I think there is no question that Post WWII Capitalism dramatically increased the living standards of Americans, and gave rise to the middle class, but we gave up something even more precious in the long run, and most Americans just don't see it. The more commercialized America became, the less intellectual we became, and we lost all our "High-Culture." America has become a nation of Dolts. Americans know who Simon Cowell is, but don't know Goethe. They know Oprah, but don't know Voltaire. The list goes on and on. For every person reading a Moliere play, or listening to a Wagner Opera, there are 50 Million Americans in a frenzy over American Idol, NFL, or NASCAR. It wouldn't be a bad thing to watch the NFL if they also pursued the higher cultural interests, but they pursue none of them. The schools no longer teach a Classical Education, so our young people don't even know what they don't know, and who's going to teach them? Their Anti-Intellectual, Doltish parents? I am a lonely outcast in my own country, surrounded by Dolts.

Now, one thing that troubles me about a move to a more Socialistic society is something that one of the more famous Socialistic Economists said about the contest between Capitalism and Socialsm.

In 1989 and 1992, Robert Heilbroner said the following...

"Less than 75 years after it officially began, the contest between capitalism and socialism is over: capitalism has won...Capitalism organizes the material affairs of humankind more satisfactorily than socialism."

"Capitalism has been as unmistakable a success as socialism has been a failure"

I'm hoping Morris and others would provide their thoughts on the subject, and how a move to a more Socialistic American Society would be a ogo thing, considering Heilbroner's comments.

3:48 AM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Prof. Berman,

I should have added that, regarding health care, there's a second elephant in the room: prescription drugs. If the insurance companies are a big problem with health care reform, then the pharmaceutical companies are surely a big problem with actual medical care. The blood-thinning medicine Plavix, one of the best-selling drugs in the world, may be little better than aspirin in effectiveness. But it also may be 12 times more likely to cause bleeding! "Yes, doctor...thank you, doctor!" Drugs undoubtedly do save lives. But if there are more lemmings than ever leaping to their deaths, it may be from the side effects of their medications.

6:28 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear jarden,

Well, Heilbroner, like so many other pro-capitalist economists, looked at only one side of the equation, namely accumulation. It's true, capitalism does a better job of accumulation, but then mostly for the upper crust. Thus if you look at what happened to the US and world econ from the early 70s to date, you'll find that the top 1/10 of 1% of the American population were the real winners in this shell game; the "trickle-down" theory of Reagan was bogus. For the most part, the upper quintile benefited; situation for the poor actually got worse, and now we have less and less of a middle class.

In addition, Heilbroner got rather mesmerized by the fall of the Soviet Union. There were those of us who were not so carried away; who said, "Just wait and see; the other shoe is going to fall as well." Which it did; it just took another nineteen years.

Hence, the other side of the equation is distribution. I never wanted to live in the USSR, but they did fairly well with this part. People went to school, got fed, had medical care, housing, and etc. In Scandanavia today--which of course, unlike the former USSR, is a democratic society--the taxes are as high as 50%, but what you get for your money makes it worth it. I never met a bitter Dane, I have to tell you. This part, the distribution angle, is what unfettered capitalism does poorly with, and what Heilbroner forgot to talk about (unlike John Maynard Keynes, who emerges as the real sage of economics of the 20th century, it seems to me).

Even then, the whole notion of a postwar boom and rise of the consumer is somewhat debatable. There are some stats that show that certainly after 1971, with the repeal of Bretton Woods, actual buying power of the masses did not increase. Frankly, the civil rights issue aside (and of course it's no small thing), I suspect we were much better off, and happier, as a society in 1950 than we are today. Keep in mind that 'progress' and modernization carry their own propaganda, as does capitalism and America in general. It's like living in a glass sphere, in a way, coated with mirroring on the inside. Very little in the way of external information penetrates this structure; it's kind of like a hologram with everyone inside hypnotized--The Matrix, as it were. Or as Philip Dick observed in his novel "Valis," the Empire is crazy, and it makes its inhabitants crazy, to the point that they do not even comprehend its existence. Add stupidity to the mix, as you point out, and the chances for alternatives, let alone serious intelligent change, are pretty much foreclosed. We are now like Slim Pickens in "Doctor Strangelove," riding the bomb like a cowboy, and crying "Yee-hah" as it descends to earth.


9:51 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

As always, a thoughtful & rather disturbing article -- but absolutely necessary, if for no other reason than to help us maintain little things like sanity.

I've just finished Hedges' "Empire of Illusion," and I'm finally getting around to Neal Gabler's "Life: The Movie" -- both of which echo & reinforce your Matrix/PKD references.

It's true, once you have your eyes opened, you begin seeing everything that's always been there in plain sight, but which we've all been trained not to notice. I can't stand to watch TV any longer, using only as a movie player for classic, thoughtful films. Whenever I do notice a commercial, print or televised, I immediately analyze it for its real message, almost as an automatic default -- and then I get infuriated & disgusted by its obvious consumerist agenda ... which people either don't see, or else embrace whole-heartedly (and empty-headedly). Or both at the same time, I guess.

Yet at some level they must be aware of how cheaply they've sold their souls for a mess of pottage, don't you think? Why else the intense defensiveness, the cries of elitism, "you think you're better than I am," etc.? Why else the desperate & even vicious anti-intellectualism?

(For example: the new film "Darwin," a biopic getting reasonably good reviews & release elsewhere in the world, can't find an American distributor because it's "too controversial." And it's more an exploration of the domestic conflict between Darwin & his devout wife, than an in-depth examination of evolution itself.)

Cassandra never was very popular, was she ...

1:22 PM  
Blogger Mike Cifone said...

One more try:

Just reconnect the link (i.e., take out the spaces I put it), and you should be able to access it.

I know this is just one more fleck of wood in the conflagration, but I thought I'd pass it along.

Not that it much matters: even if we weren't hostile to Evolution, and received the film with open arms, and our ideologies didn't do our thinking for us, the film -- film -- already exists in an airless environment. Do those who "believe" in Evolution have any knowledge of it, except in the abstract? Maybe 1% of the population of those who'd argue against anti-Evolutionists could explain to me what the Theory of Evolution is, but it's pretty hollow knowledge when it exists.

But I digress to another problem, a problem of education (vs. instruction).

1:46 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

"I think you may have been reading too much mystical poetry".

It's a side issue, I realize, but do you have any suggestions as to what to read and what to avoid in this area? For instance, Blake's as mystical as they come. He does not does not, however, denigrate reason per se, but merely "Urizen", aka, "single vision and Newton's sleep".

Re. the economic side: I recommend that everyone do a Google search using the phrase "Minsky moment". The results are most interesting.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...


Just to clarify: 'evolution' is a fact, not a theory, despite the (other) fact that 46% (I kid u not) of our compatriots believe the earth is less than 10,000 yrs old. That is to say, it is simply a fact that the human race evolved from lower life forms.The 'theory' part of it is the mechanism, over which scientists continue to argue. Natural selection? Strictly, 100%? Punctuated equilibrium? Etc etc. That's where the debate lies, in other words.


As for mystical poetry, I was just kidding my friend Andres a bit, because I kept trying to understand what he was saying and got a headache. But this cd be more my problem than his. I tend to like more naturalistic poetry, however, Cavafy, for example. Still, my favorite all-time mystic remains T.S. Eliot (Four Quartets).

5:45 PM  
Anonymous Mark said...

I grew up in England during the 80s and our country went through some of the same changes that occurred in the US. You guys had Reagan and we had Thatcher both I think were really terrible people and made very poor choices. She went through a lot of nationalized industries and privatized them, now British Rail has been split up into several different parts and is way more expensive. I don’t think she even thought about messing with the National Healthcare system though.

I've been in this country for almost twenty years with a few trips back home in between. I do have children but my wife and I are now divorced. We are still quite close though and we spent two weeks in England over the summer. One of the major problems in our marriage was that she didn’t want to travel to the UK until after we broke up of course...sigh. After driving around with my mum she looked around and said "I know why you wanted to come back"..."this places feels like home".

Now she is an African-American and I’m multi-racial (African-American, English and Irish) and yet she feels more comfortable in my country. Believe me England isn't perfect but it beats living in the US. I don’t see how America is going to sustain itself when all of the money goes towards wars and very little goes to the people unless of course they happen to be on Wall Street!

11:27 AM  
Blogger took_the_red_pill said...

Well, speaking of the less intelligent frogs and how they came to be that way, I came across this in the news.

"All Free Library of Philadelphia Branch, Regional and Central Libraries Closed Effective Close of Business October 2, 2009"


This is due to the Pennsylvania legislature's inability to agree on a budget. According to a press article I saw (CBS, I think), these closures may end up being permanent.

Does anyone else notice the symbolism here? I am speaking not only of the human cost of closing an entire library system, but also that it is occurring in the city of Philadelphia--a city of great significance in US history during both Revolutionary and modern times.

10:45 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Which red pill is it we're talkin' abt here?

Re: cultural collapse: check out the opening essay in "Talk of the Town" in the New Yorker for 24 Aug 09. It begins:

"The states of the Union are supposed to be laboratories of democracy, but this summer they have been looking more like toxic-waste dumps of futility."

Basically, state gov'ts have no money, and the collective budget gaps are on the order of 1/3 of a trillion dollars. With cuts in education, classes are bigger and facilities shoddier. Parks are closing, and services for children/elderly/disabled are drying up.

This kind of thing remains "hidden" to the American public (not that it particularly cares), and is hardly the stuff of NY Times front-page articles (for the most part). Yet this, along with the collapse of our infrastructure and the death of the superstructure (mental-spiritual life), is central to the disintegration of the US I have been describing and analyzing since 2000. Nor is any of it being addressed. Mr. Obama is pumping money into the corporate banking establishment, not into these disappearing state budgets--in short, fiddling while Rome burns, and while deluded Democrats sing his praises.

The article also talks about dysfunctional state politicians. Sarah Palin resigns the governorship of Alaska because she feels like it; the impeached governor of Illinois, Blagojevich, is now actually exploring job opportunities as an Elvis impersonator.

But these two clowns are but the tip of the iceberg; the Dunce Factor in the US is hardly limited to the masses. A DC airport ticket agent recently reported on his interactions with senators and congresswomen, and his anecdotes give us some idea of the type of people guiding our nation (into a ditch). Consider:

-Carol Shea-Porter, congresswoman from NH, asked him for an aisle seat on a plane so that her hair wdn't get messed up by being near the window (she was under the impression that windows on a plane could be opened).

-Jan Schakowsky, congresswoman from IL, asked him how it was possible for her flight to leave Detroit at 8:30 am and arrive in Chicago at 8:33 am. She couldn't understand the concept of time zones; to get off the phone, the ticket agent finally told her the plane went very fast, and she accepted this.

-Senator Dianne Feinstein of California called and said, "I need to fly to Pepsi-Cola, Florida. Do I have to get on one of those little computer planes?" When the agent explained to her that the name of the city was Pensacola, and the plane in question was a commuter plane," Dianne replied: "Whatever, smarty."

-Senator Mary Landrieu from Louisiana called about documents she would need to go to China. When the agent told her she would need a visa, she replied that that was not correct, as she had been to China before and they accepted American Express.

Is it any wonder this website has a readership of 42 people (speaking optimistically)? The Buffoon Level (BL) in this country has never been higher.

12:00 AM  
Blogger Bahayla said...

According to the anecdotes about a travel agent's encounters with stupid members of congress is an urban legend. The statements in question were probably made by American citizens, but are not actually atributable to the congresspersons in question.


9:16 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Carl,

Thanks for the feedback. I'm assuming Snopes is more correct than the original letter I got about this, but it all seems kind of hazy. What I guess remains interesting here is--true or not, it hardly seems a stretch to believe this about the crowd on the Hill. After all, elections are largely determined by popularity and campaign contributions. This is a group of people who are not especially insightful or critical in their thinking (though some are, obviously). Anyway, it's good to know that we can take this info with a large grain of salt. Thank you.


11:21 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman,

Here in Texas we pride ourselves on having the stupidest and most corrupt public servants in the nation. How many states can boast their governor apparently has not even read the constitution of the state he governs and believes he can secede from the Union? I admit this year we've had some pretty stiff competition but I do think, overall, we win. I bet even Scopes will back me up.
You mentioned in an answer that you liked mystical poetry and I wanted to recommend an East Indian poet, Rabindranath Tagore. He won the Nobel Prize in the early twenties for his work and Gitanjali is a beautiful collection of poetry. You might enjoy it as I have.

11:50 AM  
Blogger deb said...

I have a question regarding your advice to readers to immigrate to another country (which seems sound advice to me). Are there really countries out there that are interested in mid-fifties applicants (other than the wealthy, I mean)? I know Canada and Australia have point systems, and I can't imagine them being interested in people getting that close to retirement age.

12:02 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Susan,

A TX secession wd be kind of neat, I think. The state really belongs to Mexico, after all, but I'm guessing Mexico would reject any bid from TX to 'come home'. Re: Tagore: Well, I actually like naturalistic poetry more than the mystical variety (with a few exceptions), but I shd pt out that one chapter of DAA, entitled "The Home and the World," is that of a favorite novel of mine by Tagore.

Thanks again for writing-


12:05 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear High,

Very gd question, and I'm guessing it depends on the country; tho I'm not well versed in these things--you'd have to check their policies, which you can probably do online. I suspect that if you are in your mid-fifties, for many countries it would be a case of what skills you have. Years ago, when I immigrated to Canada (for about 8 years), my employer (Concordia University) had to make the case that my work was somehow unique, and that I would not as a result be taking a job away from a Canadian citizen. This is probably the policy of a lot of nations, I'm guessing; but again, you should check.

Another route is to apply for a student visa, and become a student at a university in your country of choice. This would at least get you into the country and buy you some time.

Finally: if you can wait until age 62, that puts you in a different category, because at that pt you are eligible for Social Security (in a lesser amount than if you waited until age 66, but depending on your work history, it could be a reasonable monthly payment). Combined with any other annuity you might have, this could put you in a position to apply for a retired person's status, stating that you would not be working in the country and would be living on your own outside income. Most countries would want this, because then you become a consumer, bringing in foreign cash and spending it in your new environment.

Anyway, these are just some suggestions for you to think about. Again, keep in mind that I'm hardly an expert in these matters, and that you will need to do your own research. Which could be fun--part of the moving process, if you will. After all, there are a lot of countries out there!

Good luck to you-


1:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Berman,

Yes, it is all a mess. There is no hope. I totally agree. Except, I don't think Americans are different in most respects than those of other countries. I also think that believing one can escape collapse by becoming an expat in another country is an illusion. I've lived in a number of expat communities and find them full of drunks, crooks and losers. The world is way too interconnected now to escape by changing geography, unless of course you are expert at surviving in the cold rainforest of tierra del fuego.

So what is the rational action that flows from that which we all seem to accept? Do we just keep preaching to the choir? Won't the rant get a little stale and boring? Is there nothing to DO in a hopeless world? I believe you wrote that there would be survivors someday, somewhere, to carry something forward? What do you imagine their ancestors did, to put them in that position, and if we can imagine it, shouldn't we discuss that and try it?



5:55 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Dave,

Probably no one can escape the effects of the collapse, but it does seem that the US is the cutting edge of it, and things will radiate out from that. Keep in mind that 'collapse' can be a misleading word. Rome didn't fall at 4 pm, August 3, A.D. 476; it doesn't work like that. The collapse of the US is right now, on a daily basis. The crash of last October is a node in the collapse, but more powerful is the daily, steady erosion of the system. Being an expat--depends on where--means that the effects are filtered by the society one is in; it will look different in different places. E.g. Scandanavia suffered from the crash of last October, but far less than the US, and it has been quite well in its recovery from that. And then, since collapse is a process, one can enjoy life much more out of the 'core', so to speak; after all, one can be an expat without being a drunk or a loser, yes? In a word, your argument seems logical, but I doubt it corresponds to reality all that well.

As to what to do, ancestors of survivors etc.--I gave it my best shot in the section on "New Monastic Individuals" in "Twilight of American Culture." Beyond that, I really don't know what to add.

Thanks for writing-


7:26 PM  
Blogger took_the_red_pill said...

Prof. Berman:

The "red pill" reference is just the familiar concept from "The Matrix".

Rather lame, I suppose; I am probably the billionth person to make an Internet post using such a name. But in my case it really did feel like taking a "redpill" after I got done reading "Dark Ages America" and the "Twilight" book. That was followed up by Chalmers Johnson's "Blowback" trilogy. Afterwards, it got a lot harder to ignore the cognitive dissonance that I had been feeling for quite some time about my own culture. And like the movie version, once you take the real "redpill" (i.e. viewing reality as it actually is), you can't go back.

I must say, a lot of people that I have turned on to your writing have complained about its "negativity", though none have stormed out on me like that kid did at one of your talks. I just tell them that if they find "Dark Ages" negative, they should read the latest work by Chris Hedges (or hear him speak)!

10:59 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Red,

Well, you know what they say: negative is the new positive.

(I actually believe that's true.)

Keep on truckin'...mb

11:05 PM  
Anonymous teri schooley said...

Dear Dr. Berman,
I think you underestimate your readership - at least I hope you do. I know that I look for a new post from you each morning that I am on the "webs", although I try to refrain from writing a comment too frequently. The sad fact is that when I look back on my own comments, I realize how ignorant I sound and how unable I am to stick with the topic you have presented. I'm sure quite a number of other people read your essays and think about them without comment, so I hope you don't gauge the size of your readership by the number of comments.
As I watch the great wad of people who seem to be getting angrier and angrier, I understand their anger, but not the objects they aim it toward. The "tea-baggers" seem angry at the poor; anyone who might need assistance with paying for health care is a loser, most people on welfare are committing fraud and the government should weed them out to save money (this one particularly confounds me - just exactly how many single mothers does anyone suppose purposefully impoverish themselves for the extravagant sum of $120 bucks a month in food stamps and a bit of a rent subsidy? Yeah, *that's* why we're in financial trouble), the community help group ACORN is evil, and any tax-payer monies that go toward solving social problems are automatically labeled "socialist/communist/Nazi-like programs". These protesters are anti-government, yet will be the first to defend the Patriot Act, the FISA Act, the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security, and the endless funding of the Pentagon's Everlasting War. They confuse capitalism with corporatism. And if they thought about it for a *minute*, they'd realize Obama is actually their guy.
We already live in an oligarchy, and these sad people ignorantly support that system, turning against the most helpless among them. I suppose it is similar to a herd of panicked wildebeests forcing the old or ill of the herd to the outskirts in the hopes that the predator will pick those off first.
I read a brief article this morning which shows the sorry state of our educational system in at least two states (it was a questionnaire given to students in Okla and Ariz, I believe; I'm sure the same results would be found across the entire US had they continued outward with it.) Turns out only 23% of the students could name our first President. But, hey, at least two thirds of them knew that the Atlantic was the ocean on the East Coast! You can read the results at:
T. Schooley

7:25 AM  
Anonymous Tim Lukeman said...

And the first news I see this morning:

Prep School Does Away With Books|main|dl3|link4|

"Administrators at the 144-year-old prep school 90 minutes west of Boston have already given away many of the library's previous collection of classics, poetry and reference material. They are choosing instead to spend $500,000 on a digital "learning center" that will include flat-screen TVs for cruising the Internet as well as cubbies designed for laptops and a coffee shop with a $12,000 cappuccino machine."

Of course, I work with college graduates who boast of never having read a single book after getting out of college. "What's the point? I don't have to worry about exams any more."

You're right, MB -- the collapse is a daily, ongoing thing.

7:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Dr. Berman,

"I gave it my best shot in the section on "New Monastic Individuals" in "Twilight of American Culture.""

I went back and re-read the last two chapters. The small, quiet, private little things I'm doing to create a model for the next phase, seem like a good niche for me. I'm there.

Maybe NMI's, as they propose and act out alternatives will increase the rate of collapse., whatever form, with no overt attempts to tear down. This is good. Silence, privacy and decentralization are critical. Work in the cracks.

Finally, I wonder if Zerzan's condemnation of symbolic thought and language is the answer to the issue of power. If so, how on earth would we get there?



1:01 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Gang,

Thank you all for writing. We should probably get together and start a weekly scandal sheet called "Dolt Watch", giving the stats of buffoonage and stupidity in the US--documenting the collapse, as it were. Only problem is that it would have a maximum readership of 458, or thereabouts, nationwide. Jesus, what a collection of clowns we have to live with, eh?

In an interview for the Toronto Globe and Mail a few yrs ago, Gore Vidal called the US "a nation of morons" and said that he actually enjoyed these stats, because "stupidity excites me". I often feel the same way. If you read the data and from the pt of view of the collapse of the US as a kind of national comedy, there really is something unbelievable and hilarious abt it all. Perhaps on the masthead of our scandal sheet we could have the motto, "The DPH Is an Asymptote"--where DPH stands for Dolts Per Hectare (also known as MD, the Moron Density). And while I'm on the subject, what % of the US population, do you think, knows what an asymptote is? A tenth of 1%? A hundredth of 1%?



5:20 PM  
Anonymous Kevin said...

"I wonder if Zerzan's condemnation of symbolic thought and language is the answer to the issue of power."

If we're on a dolt watch, then let's start with John Zerzan. Zerzan is as misguided an ideologue as any, to my mind, a little idealist anarchist in a ridiculous little bubble. Note to Zerzan fans: Language is not a prerequisite for hierarchy and power relations, which exist in some form or other in every species of social animal in existence, to my knowledge.

6:55 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Prof. Berman,

I confess: I didn't know what "asymptote" meant. But I looked it up; does that count?

On the other hand, I *did* realize that the report from the DC airport ticket agent was probably an urban legend. Another example: supposedly Bernie Sanders (VT) thought that he should have had an ocean-view room from his hotel in Orlando, Florida. C'mon!

Kevin: "If we're on a dolt watch, then let's start with John Zerzan". You want to throw Derrick Jensen in there too? How about we start with someone like Michelle Malkin, instead?

Maybe we should all take a deep breath.

12:41 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Art,

Well, at least you own a dictionary, and actually use it. Yes, that's gotta count for something.

As for DC agent reports: the maddening thing is that I didn't find most of the items on his/her list that much of a stretch. Our elected representatives are--like the people they represent--nothing to write home about, for the most part.

I'm breathing, I'm breathing.


10:02 AM  
Anonymous Kevin said...


"Kevin: 'If we're on a dolt watch, then let's start with John Zerzan'.

You want to throw Derrick Jensen in there too? How about we start with someone like Michelle Malkin, instead?

Maybe we should all take a deep breath."

My rate of breathing's fine, thanks.

And I wrote, "start with Zerzan". not finish with him. As Morris indicates, the "Dolt Watch" list will be a long one, and there's plenty of room for more.

12:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you Mr. Berman...

So much truth.

7:45 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Anon,

Well, they say it'll set you free.

I guess we'll just hafta wait and see!


3:09 AM  
Anonymous Jeff Doemland said...

Dear Mr. Berman,
The failure of the American enterprise to accommodate the smart frogs, as you call them, is currently being played out in the health care reform debate. For more than 50 years the smart frogs in a field called social epidemiology (which is usually found in the backwaters of schools of public health) have demonstrated with as much conclusiveness as science can afford that the causes of America's dismal health status are things like low socio-economic status, job insecurity, structural barriers to educational attainment, frayed race relations, etc. Health care has relatively little to do with how healthy we are. As one of the smart frogs, Ichiro Kawachi of Harvard, puts it, a lack health care is no more the cause of poor health than a lack of aspirin is the cause of a headache. And yet the current debate in D.C. is all about access to health care. As if providing universal access to health care will make us all healthier.

The work I do (with two colleagues in a skunk works sponsored by, of all things, one of American's large health insurers) is trying to open communities (the individuals and institutions that comprise a community) to an awareness of and bias for addressing these social determinants of health. Our experiment is several years old, and the key and overwhelming finding we've observed over and over again is that when people are withdrawn from the maw of the everyday and afforded a retreat from the American enterprise they readily embrace the social determinants of health. They grasp intuitively that their well-being -- their health -- depends on social, emotional, spiritual and environmental factors. And this dependence is manifest in surprising ways. It comes down to what looks like a felt experience of one's own existence. Not something the American enterprise promotes.

And yet when they return to their homes, their neighborhoods, their places of employment, they are drawn back into a forgetting. The social determinants look too much like a huge boulder and they lose whatever Sisyphean resolve they possessed when they took the time to reflect.

Without wanting to sound fatally pessimistic, I nonetheless wonder at times whether what isn't most called for is a hospice program for a culture with a terminal condition.

Jeff Doemland
Communities of Health

3:03 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Jeff,

Thank you for this excellent contribution. I don't think it takes rocket science to figure out that a sick society makes people sick; the problem is, as you indicate, how to get people to see this.

There may be another dimension to it, however, namely that they don't *want* to see it. After all, at that point the charade of the whole health care struggle becomes apparent, and then what wd we do? I am convinced that in general, Obama got elected because Americans did understand on some level that he would provide the aura or facade of solutions, but not actually change anything in a substantive way.

Face it: a lot of life is about being engaged in a "struggle," which confers "meaning". It is not about actually solving anything, which wd probably leave us feeling flat and disoriented. From this pt of view, contemporary American life comes off as a kind of comedy.

Keep on truckin'...mb

4:42 PM  
Anonymous Art said...

Dear Jeff:

Thanks for your wonderful post on the "ecology of healing." Like Mr. Berman's writing in general, it is another reminder that (in more cases than we would like to acknowledge) it is not so much what is wrong with the person, as it is the place one finds oneself in. From my personal experience, it is maddening how most people (even those closest who truly want to help) refuse to see this. "Go to a doctor," they say. "There must be something you can take for that."

"It comes down to what looks like a felt experience of one's own existence." Most of us would prefer to remain "comfortably numb."

8:00 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Dr. Berman and Jeff,
I read your post and found it very interesting and I'm glad a study is being done looking at the larger implications of cultural disfunction on overall health. I'm not surprised at the findings and probably anyone who's been paying even a little attention isn't either. What you're describing are significant contributing factors that create and exacerbate chronic health problems and you're right that the current health care debate doesn't even begin to address them. What the reform can do (but probably won't) is fix the underlying stress most Americans feel when they contemplate routine health care (seeing the doctor when your child has 103 fever, BP checks, etc.) with the cost to see the doctor over $100/visit for the uninsured. I have catastrophic ins, am in good health and my "co-pay" was $150 to get a couple of routine rx's written. But the worry if something truly catastrophic happens (a car wreck, emergency appendectomy, a mole that becomes cancerous) is wearing people down and fueling despair. The problem is big --- all but overwhelming --- and no sensible debate is taking place. I hope you'll let us know when and in what journal the results of the study will be in when it's published.

9:02 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

The addiction metaphor is very relevant. Americans are addicted to money (there's never enough of it for us individually) and consumerism (there's never enough things to have individually). Really thought that this economic downturn could help change that. It seems, however, that the "addict" has not yet hit bottom. This downturn had serious possibilities of doing so, but the market bounced back too quick (even though its artificial and over-bought) and the addict has been given another "hit" to get him through. Intervention anyone?

10:22 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear John,

Thanks for bringing the topic up. All studies of income vs. happiness demonstrate that past a certain minimum income needed for a basically decent life, more cash doesn't translate into more happiness. If you want the refs for these surveys, see Richard Easterlin, "Growth Triumphant." Also John Rapley, "Globalization and Inequality." It turns out that the more people have, the more they want, even tho the stats demonstrate quite clearly that increased income or material goods does not translate into increased happiness. The key here is relative vs. absolute wealth. One reason for the crash is that neoliberal economists base their predictions on absolute wealth, when it's relative wealth--which is highly irrational, i.e. psychologically based--that counts. Expectations, in other words, are much more significant than "reality," and once one set of expectations is fulfilled, the next set kicks in. Finally, we are just hamsters on a treadmill, which is a pretty good description of the US. Easterlin makes the pt that Maslow's famous "hierarchy of needs," claiming that once material wants are satisfied people then move on to art and spirituality or whatever, is not true for 99.9% of the (world's) population. The vast majority don't sign up for a Zen retreat; they sign up for a new sofa. And then, of course, leave it to Americans to turn Zen retreats into status symbols, complete with T-shirts and mugs, and "my guru is better than your guru" and the whole nine yards. Whaddya gonna do...


11:04 AM  
Anonymous Jeff Doemland said...

Susan W.,
In your comment you express an interest in studies linking social factors to health (or at least that's how I read it). For an excellent primer on social determinants of health I can refer you to This is the website companion to a PBS documentary series that aired in the spring of 2008. Both the documentary and the website are a great source for an overview of the major scholarship in this area. The website also is a treasure trove of great information, including clips from the documentary and a compendium of work to address the social determinants.

Hope this is what you're looking for.

Jeff Doemland
Communities of Health

8:11 AM  
Anonymous Susan W. said...

Dear Jeff, I'll certainly go to the web site and I want to thank you for sharing this information. For years I've seen the toll chronic worry and unhappiness takes on people and how much we need to help each other. There're better ways to live than this treadmill of work, debt, illness, isolation.

11:42 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Mr. Berman and everyone,

I always read, when I can, the Mr. Berman's articles and the comments. I have never commented before because I don't feel that I have anything new to offer in a post. But, you can always count me in when it comes to read, re-read, trying to comprehend and meditate these articles and the comments.

I have been reading Mr. Berman ever since the publishing house Sexto Piso edited in Spanish "Dark Ages America" and "The Twilight of American Culture".

Greetings from Monterrey, Mexico!

3:02 PM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Arturo amigo-

Gracias por escribir. Mira, Sexto Piso is bringing out two more books of mine in 2010: "Una cuestion de valores" in the spring, and "El reencantamiento del mundo" (this being a reprint of the earlier edition by Cuatro Vientos) in the fall.



9:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article.

Didier Sornette gives a fascinating mathematical treatment of this subject here:

What I find compelling about his analysis is that the causes of the runaway systems are endogenous to those systems. See his book 'Why Stock Markets Crash'


4:16 AM  
Blogger Morris Berman said...

Dear Tom,

Thanks for the info. Unfortunately, the link took me to a UCLA website that said the page I was seeking had changed or was no longer current, so there apparently is no way to access it.


11:14 AM  

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