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Author: Robert Pollin
Publishing House: Verso
In the climate of corporate deception, greed and unethical cultures has trashed public trust and yet the capitalistic alternative is so alien to reform makers the problem remains at the core of the developed world. I've absconded from partisan economic stance and have opted to beaver about in a John Pilger manner and delved into what the real economic experts have published. Contours of Descent by Robert Pollin - commenced in the year 2000 and grew from being a conference paper for the ASSA - a probe into the economies of America, North America and Europe, it became a 270 page book. To give you some idea of the amount of footnotes and index - 38 pages is offered in the amount of research - 3 years in the making.
First published in 2003, this version has a new publishing date of 2005; inclusive of Robert Pollin's copyright and 'Afterword of 2005'. It is worth to note that the author started on his economic journey, not expecting diversities of great economic power shifts on a small economic timescale - the 'Afterword of 2005' delivers Robert Pollin's updates.
Trade and the bond market created a 'boom culture' and in the period of prosperity, wealth epitomized the 'American Dream'; too the envy of the socially under-developed world, the US appeared infallible; albeit a sitting duck. After 9/11, the American economic power shifted towards a democratic righteous approach - i.e. Iraq and then Afghanistan was pin-pointed. George W Bush's ill-fated WMD legacy was distorted when it concerned 'actual' credible data - although the US had an economic military force of a 'Goliath' nation. Hence, the second coming of the Cold War; and one that Russia had historically armed - coincidental? Not exactly, Kissinger was highly active and persuasive during this period among the darken corridors of the Whitehouse. Iraq and Afghanistan was never far from the West's radar, from the mid 1980's until early 90's. The pinnacle propaganda of the 'Cold War'; embedded in the Reagan and Thatcher coveted cuddle. Clinton embarked on a governmental policy which embrace the analogy of a 'second and third way'; a Clintonism; its origins was a combination of Rooselvelt's 'New Deal' and Johnson's 'Great Society'. The 'first way' tinkered on the free markets and US trade, to open up easy means of credit to bolster up US revenue; known in US Financial circles as the Clinton boom. 'Clintonomics' is still deeply implemented in US trading Laws today, over a decade old and still Americans are feeling the pinch, from Clintonomic's 'hollow boom' (as referred to by Pollin) ; is a policy that 'Puts People First'; in the 1992 US Election promise.
When economist sifted through the debris of the US housing market crash of six years ago, alarm bells were chiming what the extra economic stimulus could mean further down the line during the Clinton Administration. Much of the wise men's words of finance were camouflaged as unfounded doom worshipping - especially as the world of easy money, bond markets, credit and entrepreneurialism had a livelily spring in its step, after a period of financial doldrums during Senior George Bush's period in office. Orthodox fiscal mechanism called the 'Hecksher - Ohlin model' was the mainstay of Clinton's economic policy incorporated with Hispanic partners. It didn't go without its critiques, one being Pollin, he rampantly kicks a home-run - forecasting the economic woes of low paid Americans who were in it for the long run rather than the short term - albeit, the short burst of financial benefit only creamed the high earners and so by the time the wealth reached the bottom of the financial ladder the 'real working Americans' profiteered a fraction of the time; compared of course to what the mainstream political agenda had forecast. Greenspan and Rubin, didn't read America's horoscope, in response Pollin's political stance wafts over any short term credibility and like a true economist, delivers a macro - economical assessment of the so-called boom period American's still announces with glee even though a quarter of the US workforce barely feasted on the prosperity main course, before the financial bubble squealed and deflated unceremoniously - uncertain where or when the stimulus should start. By 2001 a US recession was a reality, disabled due to not being able to flourish during the prosperity boom; the poor grafters were left to pick up the pieces, not unlike the UK today. Capitalism does not favour those fulcrum grafters - and Pollin reiterates a premise that should be at the core of all developed economies - protect a 'livable wage' - along with Steff Luce's views this premise is at the heart of this book.
Free markets produce outcomes which are unfair
Even today, Clinton has an over inflated popularity poll that derives from deflected responsibilities; due to 'his three point ways'. If, one seemed to wane, he'll pop out a sub-headed deviation, in the spot-light of the media playground - slightly tinkering with his version of Johnson's 'Great Society' legacy - (Rings any bells) - the difference is, Clinton's never had a less than 60 per cent poll while in office. An area that sickened Christopher Hitchens in his non fiction book called; 'No One Left To Lie To'; highlighting Clinton's misdemeanors. George W Bush however, adopted the strategy that was already a Clinton economic system. What was Clinton's downfall encroached onto Bush's administration not dissimilar to a rotating rain cloud. It was inevitable the financial downpour would rain on Bush's parade. And the event of 9/11 tampered with the direction of 'Contours of Descent' - half way through - Pollin speaks of a wave of economical effect made the world events impossible to ignore; as the 9/11 effect took shape of a landscape which most Westerners couldn't envisage on September 10 2001, delaying Pollin's initial publishing date until 2003 with publishing house Verso.
Each of the six chapters starts with a quotation linked with the topic. John Maynard Keynes (1883 - 1946) unsurprisingly is the choice regarding to Pollin's austere landscape chapter. Keynesian economical home truths tide-in with neoliberalism' is quite a mouthful to digest. Pollin flicks through Keynesian threads while engaging in human longevity in the twentieth century. One of the great economical returns of embracing neoliberal policy - the result is staggering. Wealth came with an extra ten to fifteen years of life expectancy from the years 1900 - 1960; the trend twenty years thereafter didn't ascend to such a trajectory - human longevity didn't necessarily influence growth. Labour productivity via the private sector therefore was not as mechanical as the forecast markets suggested - social and event deviation triggered economic trends. Neoliberalism induced myriad variations in the 'Cold War' era, when it came to continents - African's waltz was to the 'ujamma', i.e. self sufficiency model. Pollin could be guilty of over-killing the term neoliberalism, quite understandably considering the impact it has had on the developed world. Notably, Pollin switched back and forth to Chapter One while on Chapter Five, almost apologetically. In regards to continuity Pollin fell short - under the torrid financial trends this is forgivable. It is a good job Pollin published his newer publication in 2005, or he could've been locked into the unstable marathon course leading up to the collapse of Wall Street's Leymann Brothers in 2008.
Behind the diagrams and historical data, Pollin's fiscal plans are plain to see. He demands an audience and he rightly does so. The book offers economic alternatives for the developed - I hasten to add I agree with Pollin view that policy makers have a habit to 'wing it' - 'hope for the best' - 'continue down the political agenda route'; rather than getting the white elephant out of the kitchen; instead they feed the beast until it's too big to walk out of the kitchen. Capitalism is no different; the economic mechanism is flawed beyond a twenty five year limit. Neoliberalism has fundamental to Pollin's book. The answer rests on economists 'egalitarian' alternative, not necessary in the mittens of the IMF and CEO's of financial institutions. Good read for an economic Leymann.
Pollin leaves the last word to his late tutor; American Writer and Economist, Robert Heilbroner (1919 - 2005).
"Too often a vehicle for mystification, economics can best become an instrument for enlightenment if we see it as the means by which we strive to make a workable science out of morality".