Second hand enforcers of a creditor's paradise...
January 24, 2017 5:22 PM   Subscribe

Mark Blyth is the Eastman Professor of Political Economy at Brown University.

Author of the book, Austerity: The History of a Dangerous Idea. Previously on the blue.

He has written extensively about the creditor's revolt that begin in the late 70s.

He has become more well known over the last year after he called Brexit, Trump, and the Italian referendum, and is now warning about the French presidential election. He sees the current global trend as creditor-debtor stand-offs. He has referred to many center left and right parties as enforcers in a creditor's paradise For instance, in a speech to the center left, German Social Democratic Party. After they gave him an award for "thinking differently" about economics.

More of his writings:
Interview – Mark Blyth

Guardian profile

He is an engaging public speaker. Who in his own word sounds like Shrek.

Mark Blyth and Wendy Schiller – Election 2016: What Happened and Why?

Mark Blyth on the 2016 US election results - shorter version of the previous video with only his remarks.

Liberalism Under Siege: Mark Blyth, Margaret Weir with Ed Steinfeld

Mark Blyth: The Athens Live Interview - Where he first called Brexit and talked about Trump.

Bonus: Blyth and Nassim Taleb wrote an article back in 2011, The Black Swan of Cairo. It talks about the failure of the elites during the Arab Spring.
posted by KaizenSoze (26 comments total) 88 users marked this as a favorite
 


I've been enjoying Mark's interviews for the past few months as well. Interesting guy, used to be in a few bands, has apparently done stand up comedy. Has a great, aggressive style of asserting things that's fun to listen to.

Think I first heard him talking on a London School of Economics panels. The LSE has some absolute fantastic free content if you're willing to listen to long podcasts.

His take on Trump and Brexi being reactions to the unresolved issues of the financial crisis rings very true to me.

Thanks for sharing these resources.
posted by Telf at 7:21 PM on January 24 [3 favorites]


His take on Trump and Brexi being reactions to the unresolved issues of the financial crisis rings very true to me.

Simon Wren-Lewis had a piece on his blog a while while back that I can't find, basically framing it as the financial crisis having discredited the-ideology-we'll-call-for-the-sake-of-a-label neoliberalism (of which one of the branches favors austerity), but leaving all the levers of power in the hands of adherents of said ideology. Given a roughly democratic polity, this created a discrepancy that had to shake out one way or another. I think this is a not inaccurate story --- I believe that even had she won Clinton would have been the last neoliberal president.
posted by PMdixon at 7:47 PM on January 24 [13 favorites]


Brexi of course being a typo of Brexit. I'm predicting that Brexi is the top girls' name of 2017. That or Trumpina.
posted by Telf at 7:51 PM on January 24 [6 favorites]


I've loved him ever since I heard the interview in which he said this:
So this is global Trumpism. It is a no win scenario until basically until elites figure out that at the end of the day, as I like to say to my American hedge fund friends, the Hamptons is not a defensible position. The Hamptons is a very rich area on Long Island that lies on low lying beaches. Very hard to defend a low lying beach. Eventually people are going to come for you.
One can hope.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:56 PM on January 24 [22 favorites]


Oh man, and how could I forget this one:
…What’s clear is that every social democratic party in Europe needs to find a new reason to exist. Because as I said earlier over the past 20 years they have sold their core constituency down the line for a bunch of floaters in the middle who don’t protect them or really don’t particularly care for them. Because the only offers on the agenda are basically austerity and tax cuts for those who already have, versus austerity, apologies, and a minimum wage.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 7:57 PM on January 24 [7 favorites]


Thanks for this.
posted by Wretch729 at 8:13 PM on January 24


Very few people can't be bought off at least partially, and there are even fewer who can't be bought off completely, certainly not enough "untouchables" to fill every important position in government, law enforcement, media, and finance. The corruption is so deep and so widespread that we'll never remove it completely.

Hell, our elected officials don't even try to hide the fact that they live like royalty. Why is it necessary to hold political and economic summits at the most expensive resorts on Earth? And if they are unable to perform their duties unless they are coddled, we shouldn't be surprised that they will screw us over to ensure the coddling continues after they leave office.
posted by Beholder at 8:59 PM on January 24 [5 favorites]


Good post and Blyth is a solid thinker/political economist.

For those looking for other voices with clear analysis, I'd recommend:

Simon Johnson (also has the accent)
Richard Wolff (american marxist)
David Harvey (double trouble, has the accent and the class conflict)
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 5:32 AM on January 25 [5 favorites]


Why is it necessary to hold political and economic summits at the most expensive resorts on Earth?

I know they pick Davos in the middle of winter because it's really hard to protest when you're freezing.

So...fuck them twice for that, really.
posted by schadenfrau at 6:04 AM on January 25 [2 favorites]


From listening to the '2016 election results' one, I think he falls into the trap of thinking that both Trump and Brexit were somehow inevitable results of sweeping social forces. I think that's a mistake.

The EU Referendum was very close. Leave only won by 4 points. There are plenty of essentially random micro-level events that could have changed that many minds. I could certainly imagine Remain winning if a few more things had gone our way, say fewer poor tactical calls in the campaign (see: emergency budget), if Labour had managed to run an effective campaign, or if Farage/UKIP's Leave.EU had ended up as the lead campaign for Leave.

Same is true for Trump's win. If Comey hadn't got involved in the final days, if Clinton had employed a better electoral college strategy, or if the 'golden shower' dossier had come out before the election, then the US could easily have just sworn in President Hilary Clinton.

I'm not saying that social forces don't matter. The current state of the world made Brexit and President Trump possible. But it didn't make them inevitable.
posted by Urtylug at 6:08 AM on January 25 [6 favorites]


I guess that depends on what you think the vote spread would have been in absence of these social forces. That someone like Trump with the campaign he ran could get to a popular vote tally just 2.1% less than Clinton is amazing. Shouldn't he have been 10-15% behind, at least? If one goes by the tally of media and political endorsements, it should have been a landslide in favor of Clinton.

Cameron called the referendum and the UK govt. didn't have any plan for Brexit because they could not conceive that the voters would opt for Brexit. Boris Johnson, reportedly, and I may be remembering wrong, hadn't prepared a victory speech, even as contingency.

What the thin margins demonstrate is that the 'revolt' is in its early stages and hadn't advanced further, at the time of these elections. Structurally, they weren't flukes.
posted by Gyan at 6:24 AM on January 25 [8 favorites]


Because as I said earlier over the past 20 years they have sold their core constituency down the line for a bunch of floaters in the middle who don’t protect them or really don’t particularly care for them.

The often mentioned "downfall of the left" didn't happen because of the SU collapse. It happened because the socialist parties (or social democrat) closer to the center moved towards the Fucking Third Way, and screwed everyone to the benefit of private investors (rampant privatizations during the 80s and 90s) and to the benefit of the finance industry during austerity and bailouts.

Eventually, you run out of people to sell out.

The biggest threat to democracy in Europe aren't Russian trolls. It's ignoring people turn to the fringes when they are desperate - with long term and youth unemployment up the wazoo, industry weakened, commerce mostly left at the hands of a few corporations, and a service economy that mostly serves hundred thousands euros monthly to those nearer to the top and six-months "freelancing" contracts for everyone near the bottom, there's plenty of desperation to go around to the parties willing to say "we're mad as hell and we're not taking this anymore". And they don't even need a massive populist uprising to force a coup, just need to tick an election a few points in their direction to fuck everything up.
posted by lmfsilva at 6:24 AM on January 25 [8 favorites]


I guess that depends on what you think the vote spread would have been in absence of these social forces. That someone like Trump with the campaign he ran could get to a popular vote tally just 2.1% less than Clinton is amazing. Shouldn't he have been 10-15% behind, at least? If one goes by the tally of media and political endorsements, it should have been a landslide in favor of Clinton.

Cameron called the referendum and the UK govt. didn't have any plan for Brexit because they could not conceive that the voters would opt for Brexit. Boris Johnson, reportedly, and I may be remembering wrong, hadn't prepared a victory speech, even as contingency.

What the thin margins demonstrate is that the 'revolt' is in its early stages and hadn't advanced further, at the time of these elections. Structurally, they weren't flukes.


All reasonable. Neither Brexit nor Trump could have happened without the structural forces. In good times, I think both campaigns would have lost heavily.

However, we're only having these conversations in the way that we are because of the way that the dice landed. In the not-very-distant world where Remain squeaked out a knife-edge win and Clinton ended up with >300 electoral votes, we'd still think everything was fine, the current world order would carry on, and that the sentiments behind Trump/Brexit had been shown to be narrow minority views.
posted by Urtylug at 7:03 AM on January 25 [2 favorites]


In the not-very-distant world where Remain squeaked out a knife-edge win and Clinton ended up with >300 electoral votes, we'd still think everything was fine, the current world order would carry on, and that the sentiments behind Trump/Brexit had been shown to be narrow minority views.

In the not-very-distant world, Brexit and Trump aren't narrow minority views. The former ended up a knife-edge away from victory, and Trump only 3% behind Clinton in the popular vote tally.
posted by Gyan at 7:16 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]


I bought this from the link; Great read.

Kind of the key take home is that 'Austerity is one of those great economic ideas that is 100% correct, considered in macroeconomic isolation.'

If multiple, interconnected actors are forced to do it at the same time, like say, by a coordinated banking cartel based in Germany, the results are catastrophic. Even though the individual policy decisions are 'macro-economically correct.'
posted by mrdaneri at 7:19 AM on January 25 [2 favorites]


The current state of the world made Brexit and President Trump possible. But it didn't make them inevitable.

Those two particular events, no. But the state of the world brought us close enough to the brink that random chance pushed us over. Analyzing the "random chance" events — the proverbial straws that broke the camel's back — strikes me as a lot less productive than looking at why the camel was carrying two tons of sashweights prior to that, and who put them there.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:30 AM on January 25 [4 favorites]


In the not-very-distant world, Brexit and Trump aren't narrow minority views. The former ended up a knife-edge away from victory, and Trump only 3% behind Clinton in the popular vote tally.

Sure. But my point is that people focus on, and react to, the top-line result rather than the margin of victory, and that the conversations we'd be having would be very different given very small and essentially random variations in what happened.
posted by Urtylug at 7:31 AM on January 25 [6 favorites]


Your original statement was "the trap of thinking that both Trump and Brexit were somehow inevitable results of sweeping social forces" and then "The current state of the world made Brexit and President Trump possible. But it didn't make them inevitable."

True if Blyth claimed or implied them to be inevitable in 2016. If you see one or two of the other videos linked above (the Watson Center panel, the Athens Live interview) as well as the written interview article, you'll see that he traces the historical changes leading to here. That two signature events occurred in 2016 and by low margins is a fluke but not the base momentum. There's other correlated events like the Italian referundum and the ascendancy of the Right in Europe like the close shave in Austria and the collapse in support for Hollande in France.
posted by Gyan at 8:02 AM on January 25 [2 favorites]


He's far too Dundonian to sound like Shrek. That old Scottish Cringe towards self-deprecation is a tough one to kill.
posted by scruss at 8:40 AM on January 25 [1 favorite]


For those looking for other voices with clear analysis, I'd recommend:

How about Ha-Joon Chang?
posted by Apocryphon at 10:54 AM on January 25 [2 favorites]


On austerity: as a good friend of mine said 'You can't borrow your way out of debt, but you can put groceries on credit card. If my kid is hungry, I'm going to put groceries on the credit card."

Also, thanks for this - this guy is a really engaging public speaker.
posted by eclectist at 3:00 PM on January 25 [6 favorites]


I've listened to Blyth's election analysis, but I'm not sure his analysis explains anything. You can criticize Clinton and the democrats for being out of touch, but then the argument is voters saw Trump as more in touch with the common man? That analysis doesn't do anything to help. It doesn't explain the fact that Trump received less votes than Romney did, and that Hilary received 5 million less votes than Obama did. His argument seems to be that 5 million democrats thought they would cut their own nose off to spite their face?

In some cases I think he's trying to have his cake and eat it to. You can't say the Trump is the triumph of some far right economic populism, while at the same time acknowledging that Trump is bad for the people that voted for him. The people that voted for him, or as indicated by voter turnout, the people who chose to stay home. If we know Trump is bad for the people that chose to stay home, and I'm well enough off that I can survive the next four years of crap, you can bet dollars to donuts that the people who chose to stay home also know that he's bad for them.

I suspect there's more value in Wendy Schiller's multicausal explanation. Her points regarding the speed of social changes brings up a discussion I had with some friends. I suspect there's been a disintegration of "american identity" as defined in the early post-WWII period, one that only included white males. For America to move forward that identify had to break down, and as more people have gotten a seat at that table, I'm not sure that identify has fully reformed. Instead we see a red v. blue, rural v. urban, coastal v. middle america dynamics arising. Nationalism becomes becomes uniting then.
posted by herda05 at 3:17 PM on January 25


Eh, Chang's a centrist/liberal. I mean, I like him fine, but he's for ways to keep capitalism limping along.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 3:20 PM on January 25


His argument seems to be that 5 million democrats thought they would cut their own nose off to spite their face?

Uh, yeah. This is exactly what misogyny looks like. I think you're right that he underemphasizes Hillary's negatives in this particular case of 'Global Trumpism'. Also, that term is misleading because the trend started outside the US. But I don't think the center-left implosion could be any more clear.

You can't say the Trump is the triumph of some far right economic populism, while at the same time acknowledging that Trump is bad for the people that voted for him...the people who chose to stay home also know that he's bad for them.

If that's your stance, then I think you severely misunderstand populism.
posted by Reasonably Everything Happens at 7:13 PM on January 25 [3 favorites]


The best example of populism in action I can tell from a first hand experience is a customer I had that got by with social re-insertion benefits and occasional gigs once coming happily, flag in hand, cap in head from a rally for a party that had abolishing said benefits as part of the platform, because the leader of that party, Paulo Portas, a privately educated journalist was "relatable". His nickname then was "Paulinho das Feiras", because his shtick on the campaign trail was to cruise farmers' markets and fairs with a straw hat or a flat cap pretending to be a man of the people.

The whole point of populism is to make the voters look past everything and make them believe they are the same.
posted by lmfsilva at 10:39 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]


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