Bert Olivier
Bert Olivier

Farewell, my queen, farewell greed

The French Revolution, triggered by the storming of the Bastille in 1789, was an “event” in Badiou’s sense of a history-changing occurrence made possible by a large number of individuals acting in concert to achieve a certain goal. This event is vividly brought to life – albeit from a distance – in Benoit Jacquot’s wonderfully understated film, Farewell, my Queen, currently touring the country with a fine collection of other recent French films.

The French Institute, the Alliance Francaise and the SA Department of Ats and Culture (among other agencies) should be congratulated on treating South African audiences on such outstanding film art (especially considering the usual fare of Hollywood establishment cinematic kitsch that we are exposed to most of the time). I have so far seen the one referred to above, as well as Claire Denis’s 35 Shots of Rum, and Satrapi and Paronnaud’s Chicken with Plums, all of them superb in their own, distinctive way, but here I want to concentrate on Farewell, my Queen because of its unmistakable relevance for the present time.

In my last post I made use of Deleuze’s concept of “crystals of time” – images or image-clusters in which retrospective time and prospective time (both virtual and actual) are condensed in such a way that it brings past and present, non-actualised possibilities and actuality, together. Farewell, my Queen does this superbly, the more so because it is the fictionalisation (of the out-of-sight, interstitial spaces, one might say) of an actual, epoch-making historical event – the political manifestation of the Enlightenment’s belief in the capacity of reason to liberate people from political and economic tyranny.

As said before, these things are understated in the film – one only gets the odd glimpse of the dire economic circumstances of the so-called “fourth estate” (the proletariat) when the soldiers at the gilt gates to the royal palace at Versailles shoo a group of desperate people congregated there away in the morning. Its power lies in its reconstruction, from the perspective of Sidonie (a young woman whose job it is to read to the queen), of the pampered, cocooned lives of the royalty and members of the nobility at the royal Versailles court, who were hopelessly out of touch with the accumulating signs of a simmering social and political upheaval in the rest of France, particularly in Paris.

The action is set around and after the storming of the Bastille on July 14 1789, when news of this ominous event eventually reaches the court, and is passed along its passages in whispers from noble to noble, and to the workers expected to fawn on them. That everyone realises the revolutionary implications of this occurrence, is clear from questions that the news provokes, such as “What will happen to us?” And “Shouldn’t we flee immediately?” Many of the nobles (and the workers) do, as one gathers from visual snatches of people hastily packing up belongings and getting into their coaches. This process gathers urgency when a pamphlet bearing a list of 286 (if I recall) names reaches the court – names of royals and nobles whose heads have to be removed from their bodies (so it is stated) for the necessary reforms to take place. And Queen Marie-Antoinette’s name tops the list.

Understandably, this news causes the queen to start preparing for a hasty departure to Switzerland, a resolve stymied by King Louis XVI’s laudable (but short-sighted, as it turns out later) decision to meet with “his people” in Paris. Again, the film’s punch is a soft, but forceful one, emanating from the cinematic uncovering of the all-too-human trait of denial, evident in the continuing practice, in the midst of the prognostication of revolution, of coddling the queen by indulging her whims – such as Sidonie being instructed to embroider a dahlia for Her Majesty, and choosing only those texts to read from that would lift the queen’s spirits.

The central intrigue at the court at this time turns out to be the queen’s uncontrollable infatuation with another (beautiful and arrogant) woman, to the consternation of the young Sidonie, who is totally devoted to the queen. To add insult to injury, when Marie-Antoinette decides to stay, she tells her female would-be paramour to flee to Basel disguised as a servant, and instructs Sidonie to impersonate this duchess (expensive, fashionable clothes and all) and travel with her to Switzerland as “insurance”. The fact that the queen regards her as expendable (to save the duchess) is not lost on Sidonie, but she does it anyway, without any diminution of her affection for Marie-Antoinette. The fact that their coach is stopped along the way, before being allowed to continue on its journey – with people moving about, torches in hand, outside the coach – is, again, an understated intimation of the inevitable consequences of decades of political and economic oppression for those who conveniently connived at such oppression.

At the level of the time-image Jacquot’s historically located film unavoidably interacts with the history of the present. Throughout I sat wondering if he deliberately directed the action in such a way as to hint at the similarities between the France of the late 18th century and the world of today, on a global scale. After all, the film was released in 2012, and Jacquot, as Frenchman, would surely have been aware of these parallels. Didn’t Francois Hollande, France’s new president, make it abundantly clear in his pre-election speeches that the world stands, like so many times before in history (albeit on a smaller scale then), before the stark reality of a virtually unbridgeable divide between the economic elites of the globalised world and the (often miserably) poor? Which is why Hollande stated unambiguously that he realised the adversary he was up against was “the world of finance”. And have events in this financial world since his election not borne out the accuracy of his insight? The recent ignominious (but stinking rich) departure of Barclays Bank’s Bob Diamond (who did not last forever) from the scene amid growing evidence that credit-card holders all over the world have unwittingly been “ripped off” by the rate-fixing banks (of which Barclays was but one), confirmed that the world’s elites care as little for the world’s economically deprived today as France’s nobility and royalty did in the 18th century.

Small wonder that one of the most persistent globally occurring protests listed by Hardt and Negri in Multitude (2005) is protests against poverty (alongside protests against lack of representation of ordinary people by their so-called representatives at a local, regional, national and international level, as well as protests against war and violence). In fact, these authors allude to the months immediately prior to the fall of the Bastille, when more than 40 000 “lists of grievances” were submitted by ordinary people to France’s provincial governors, to be placed before the king (to no avail), and point to the parallel between these grievances and the protests that have been accumulating across the globe in recent years (also to no avail).

In his newly published book (Lost in Transformation) veteran economist Sampie Terreblanche exposes the lie of neo-liberal capitalism – with its empty promise of wealth generated at the top, which would supposedly “trickle down” (who wants a trickle, anyway?) to the poor – by pointing out that, on the basis of his research for the book, all indications are that under the ANC in South Africa (and it’s no different elsewhere) the “trickle” has been upwards, into the pockets of the already wealthy, widening the gap between them and the poor. And he makes it clear that a change of economic direction is overdue. This goes for the world in its entirety.

If you can make it, go and see Farewell, my Queen, to experience the premonitions of revolution in 18th century France made tangible through great film art (very different from Hollywood “feel-good” trash), and ask yourself what it reminds you of.

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    • http://necrofiles.blogspot.com Garg Unzola

      Interesting because trickle-down economics is a ruse to try and convince economically illiterate people that they should put up with economic inequality that is systemic. Fact remains that Neoliberal economics does lead to more economic inequality, at least initially. Arithmetic dictates that it has to be so. But like the Iron Lady boisterously explains, economic inequality yields no indication of living standard.

      All of the tiger economies (known as such for their economic miracles, although it’s not a miracle if the causes and effects are known and replicable, perhaps?) experienced an increase in skill levels, an increase in gainful employment and created wealth due to more or less Neoliberal economic policies (less so than more so). More importantly, they all experienced an increase in living standard.

      Did they experience an end of greed? Did the French Revolution lead to the end of greed? Or is this just another way to distract from the real picture with a baroque frame?

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      This film appears to be about France’s favourite Historical Myth. The illiterate mob who rampaged through Paris did not give a damn about the Middle Class ideas of “Liberty, Equality and Fraternity” which they had never heard about but only about the fact that there was no food because the harvest had failed causing a famine.

      And I thought that “the fourth estate” was the media?

    • HD

      Interesting, although the EU is at its heart a deeply undemocratic and elitist project. You only need to look at the actions of the EU during the financial crisis/sovereign debt crisis to realise that the EU political elite don’t have any concern for their respective constituencies. It is all about saving the EU elite in Brussels and their bankers. All the more disappointing to frequently see intellectuals and pundits defend the EU / Euro concept at all costs. (Not referring to his article).

      Reminds me of a little gem from H.L. Mencken:

      “The state — or, to make matters more concrete, the government — consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office. Their principal device to that end is to search out groups who pant and pine for something they can’t get, and to promise to give it to them. Nine times out of ten that promise is worth nothing. The tenth time it is made good by looting ‘A’ to satisfy ‘B’. In other words, government is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advanced auction on stolen goods.”

      The enemy really is not “financial markets”, but “politics and politicians”. Combine the two and you have a recipe for disaster…

    • beachcomber

      John Law – a Scottish economist, bamboozled the French aristocracy into buying into his land development scheme in Mississippi, eventually bankrupting the state. Perhaps the original Ponzi Scheme. The knock on effect was that the peasants didn’t get paid, which exacerbated the already fraught financial state of the national treasury.

      As usual, when analysing a situation involving society, follow the money.

      And please remember that social change, trickle down, skill development, especially in Africa, is a generational thing. Not something that is achieved in a decade or two.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Law_(economist)

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      And the reason for the harvest failure that cased the French Revolution was CLIMATE CHANGE according to National Geographic!

      A volcanic eruption of Mr St Helens threw so much dust and debris into the atmosphere that it clouded the sun in the summer months, not only in Europe but also in North America.

      Yet our Western Scientists, no doubt with research funded by oil companies and vested interests, try and tell us Climate Change is man made an can be controlled?

      “What the World Needs Now…” is not Politicians BUT Farmers who know how to farm!

    • Enough Said

      @Lyndall Beddy

      I think you have finally lost it – your post ‘August 22, 2012 at 12:43 pm’, is so confused its impossible to unravel.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Enough Said

      Sorry – the second post of mine relates to my first post i.e. (1)The French Revolution was caused by a Famine, and (2) the Famine was caused by Climate Change. But you are correct – I did NOT make it clear!

      My husband says I do that a lot – think people understand me when they don’t!

    • Enough Said

      @Lyndall Beddy

      I majored in history at university and my lecturers appear to have totally missed your interpretation of the French Revolution and its causes. They (and our textbooks) were more along the following lines of:

      Start quote- “Many problems in France led up to the Revolution:

      1) Under the Kings Louis XV and Louis XVI, France had been supporting the American Revolution and been part of the Seven Years War. (They did not support the American Revolution in support of democracy, but out of desire to weaken the British, their longtime adversaries). This had made the country very poor with a huge national debt.

      2) The high price of bread caused the ordinary people to suffer from hunger and malnutrition. This made them dislike the rich nobles who had the money to eat well and build huge houses.

      3) The Roman Catholic Church, which owned the most land in France, put a tax on crops called the dime (tithe) which hurt the poorest and hungriest people.

      4) Ideals of the Enlightenment. Many people disliked total rule by the royalty and the nobility. They could see that in other countries, such as in the new country America, people like them had more influence on the government. They also wanted freedom of religion.

      The Revolution happened because King Louis XVI failed to deal with these problems.”

      – end quote.

      Source: http://simple.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_Revolution#Causes

      DOES IT NOT IN SOME SMALL WAY REMIND YOU TODAY’S SOUTH AFRICA?

      >>>>

    • Richard

      As Shakespeare said, comparisons are odious. Although superficially the inequalities of the eighteenth century and the twenty-first may look similar, they have rather different underpinnings. In the eighteenth century, you had growing European populations within a world that was technologically unsophisticated. It was possible for anybody to better themselves (financially, and it always is financially) through agriculture and simple commerce. You could travel to the colonies and tap into growing communities, in the way that capitalism’s model enables. However, finance was not really about political control, it was closer to its roots of barter. The state was all-powerful, identities much more intact, movements much more controlled. Move forward to the present-day. Identities are much weaker (specifically racial and political) and the possibilities of basic economic empowerment much more limited. In this environment, how is control to be effected? How are the intelligent members of society to control the unintelligent (intelligence replacing aristocracy), the educated, the uneducated? Without militarism or brute political force, it can only be by the forces of finance. For instance, movement controlled by the differentiating of property prices, access to empowering goods by their costs, etc., etc. Without this, society would be unstructed and undifferentiated, and would have no momentum. We would be living as equals, undoubtedly, but in caves.

    • Enough Said

      While not ignoring the other important reasons for the French Revolution given in my post above, what Wikipedia says about failed crops in France at the time of the revolution: “These problems were all compounded by a great scarcity of food in the 1780s. A series of crop failures caused a shortage of grain, consequently raising the price of bread. Because bread was the main source of nutrition for poor peasants, this led to starvation. Contributing to the peasant unrest were conspiracy theories that the lack of food was a deliberate plot by the nobility.[21] The two years prior to the revolution (1788–89) saw meager harvests and harsh winters, possibly because of a strong El Niño cycle [22] caused by the 1783 Laki eruption in Iceland.[23]”
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Causes_of_the_French_Revolution

      >>>

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Enough Said

      This discovery of the famine is recently done by National Geographic archeologists, but even before that I was taught at UCT that the Intellectual Elite took over from the Mob and re-wrote history. When did you graduate and from which University?

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Enough Said

      Sorry – I did it again! What is new is not knowlege of the famine, but that it was in both North America and Europe, and was caused by a volcanic eruption.

    • Brent

      Bert, you end off with: “And he makes it clear that a change of economic direction is overdue. This goes for the world in its entirety. ” Please spell out exactly how you would change the economic direction, specific points and concrete suggestions that are backed up by working examples (what we say in engineering; show me your reference plant) not grand Obama type one liners like; ‘justice for all or we need a more caring less greedy society’, which solves nothing

      For your info the past 50 + years world has experienced a massive upliftment of the world’s poor, driven by the growing E Europe and then shoved through by China, all by the lifting of barriers to growth and innovation and YES a massive trickle down effect. The breaking of the Marxist chains has benefitted millions.The task of you intellectuals is not to pour cold water on this massive world development pointing out only the downsides such as poor labour conditions but how to improve the negatives whilst not blunting the positives, try building not obsessive tearing down. For those of you who look down on the trader/business people suggest you eat a little humble pie and give them credit for supporting the whole system and the free loaders: politicians/intellectuals/civil society etc etc.
      Your good film maker (and wealthy also) would not have the funds/resources or markets to make good films without the ‘traders’ building up society.

      Brent

    • Enough Said

      @Brent – “For your info the past 50 + years world has experienced a massive upliftment of the world’s poor, …..all by the lifting of barriers to growth and innovation and YES a massive trickle down effect”. I don’t know if the equivalent of the third estate of the French Revolution in our modern world would agree with you. Maybe you should talk to the folk on the hill at Marikana. They tend to be fairy forthright.

    • http://necrofiles.blogspot.com Garg Unzola

      @Brent:
      That’s 100% correct as far as I can tell. The Baltic Tigers were all a direct result of the economic systems based on the philosophy of Marx that came to an end. The shock therapy economics concept is sound. If you want the reference plant, try Poland and Chile (list goes on).

      The test of a theory is its praxis. If it doesn’t work in the field, the theory is flawed and it has to be discarded. Marx’s theory is flawed, not only in its application but right down to its fundamental principles. How many more times do we have to be stubborn about it before we accept that Marx is not a thinker whose ideas had much semblance with reality?

    • Maria

      With the exception of Richard and Enough Said, no one here seems to have understood the point of Bert’s post – the same tired old cliches are being trotted out over and over again…

    • Brent

      Enough Said, you and your fellow thinkers judge free market systems on a 100% perfect basis, if it is not 100% perfect it must be thrown out. How about thinking along positive lines, take what has worked (over 200 million uplifted out of poverty in China) and make it work better, ie catching those who miss the net but keep the net. Those people on the hill at Marikana are mostly (not 100%) the result of Govt interference with Marxist ideas into the economy. How would you save them and also grown the economy without pulling anyone else down, put your ideas/block on the table. On another blog someone has shown that taking 100% of the Lonmins M/D package and divided it up with all the miners and support staff would give them very little extra a month.

      Brent

    • Enough Said

      @Brent – I have heard that type of rhetoric so often, all I can say is I believe you live on hope and propaganda and are out of touch with reality. Read some real books by real economists that deal with the real world. Nobel Prize winning economist Joseph Stiglitz could be a starting point. Another good author is Naomi Klein, “The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism”. I am afraid Klein and Stiglitz will burst your bubble.

    • Maria

      Brent, it is a real laugh that you mention China as an example of a free market system. It is a case of state-controlled capitalism over there, with the communist party keeping tabs on economic activity all the time.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      I don’t agree with Stiglitz, but can no longer remember why,and have no time to research my notes!

    • Enough Said

      @Lyndall Beddy

      Maybe you don’t agree with Stiglitz, because if George W Bush had appointed Joseph Stiglitz to his administration as had Bill Clinton, the US economy would not have suffered the double dip recession of the last half decade.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Enough Said

      If someone would give a synopsis of Stiglitz’s theories I might just remember what I don’t agree with!

    • Trevor

      With the ANC the ‘trickle’ has indeed been up, but more like a powerful hot-spring burst, to all those geysers at the top.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Enough Said

      I think Republicans and Democrats share equal responsibility for America’s debt and unemployment “crisis” – which at 11 percent unemployment seems minimal to me compared to their 1930s depression of 25 percent (1 in 4 unemployed) and our 45 percent (half the population unemployed).
      .

      Bush ran up massive expenses on the war on terror and invasion of Iraq; and Clinton forced through sub-prime loans -but America had been living in increasing debt for decades anyhow.

    • Enough Said

      Lyndall – yes the US needs a second political party, at the moment parties both are opposite sides of the same coin. Wall St patsies. Agreed. However:

      “….. When President Bush took office, the subprime lending market was in its infancy, and most borrowers got conventional or “prime” loans. But within a few years, the subprime mortgage market exploded as commercial and investment banks competed fiercely to originate more and more home mortgages by dropping their lending standards lower and lower.”
      http://howdidthishappen.org/blame/

      The Republicans are the worst side of the coin. Absolute fascists.

    • http://necrofiles.blogspot.com Garg Unzola

      Maria:
      Actually yourself and Bert are no exception to ‘tired old clichés’. Still not capable of coming up with a counterargument? You do know what an intellectually honest debate is, I presume, as apparently you are qualified to teach others these skills?

      I would be terribly interested in seeing you use these skills in a manner that demonstrates you have in fact mastered them. Mere hints and insinuations do not make a rebuttal and do not amount to bringing a horse to water. In fact, it reveals an intellectual inferiority complex.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Enough Said

      Sub Prime loans as government policy, not just bad bank lending, was brought in by Clinton from what I read, but I am not an expert.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Enough Said

      The History of America is littered with Bank Failures. Their banks have always been unregulated or poorly regulated.

      South Africa has always had strict regualtions, and never had a bank collapse. Although Trevor Manuel deregualted about half of the regualtions, enough remained to protect citizens.

    • HD

      @Enough Said

      Naomi Klein is clueless when it comes to economics – just look at the reviews of her books in economic journals and websites. If I recall correctly she was a journalist, before writing No Logo? In any event the “Shock Doctrine” is full of howlers in terms of economic history and ideas – she does make some valid points in the typical over the top “political activist” sense. So she deserves credit for that, although it could be made with a bit more nuance.

      Stiglitz is not an idiot – but he is openly and widely regarded as a left wing economist. I prefer him to Krugman – who has become a total political hack – but I wonder how familiar you really are with Stiglitz ideas? You can for instance have a look at this critique from Mark Pennington:
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JvLkhU–TCM

      In many respects Stiglitz fits the model many on the left often use to stigmatise free market economist – especially those from the Chicago school. The difference being the Stiglitz believes (erroneously in my opinion) that policymakers can correct market failures – better than markets. He completely misses the whole Hayekian epistemological critique of central planning. (But this is a whole different debate).

      By the way – I find it rather frustrating that people appeal to the authority of Nobel winning economists – when they won the Nobel for technical work on a different topic then the one they are commenting on…Paul Krugman is a classic example, but Stiglitz…

    • http://necrofiles.blogspot.com Garg Unzola

      @Enough said:
      With due respect, Naomi Klein and Stiglitz are not reputable sources on economics. In fact, if someone has won a Nobel Prize in either peace or economics, it should be a fair warning that they’re institutional sycophants.

      Naomi Klein has absolutely no valuable economical insights whatsoever, mostly because she relies on statistical data that is flawed, but she does not have the skills to spot the flaws. Look at how she castigated Milton Friedman, when evidence suggests she didn’t read Friedman past an introduction of his work and then ripped it out of context too.

      Stiglitz? Well, he works for the government. He cannot bite the hand that feeds. Economists and sangomas are one and the same. Milton Friedman also won the Nobel Prize for economics and his views are in direct contrast with those of Stiglitz, and not anything like Klein portrays them (which should tell you all you need to know about her credibility).

      It is important to note that economics is part of humanities and it is not a hard and fast science. It is a descriptive endeavour and does not have much by means of repeatability or making accurate predictions about the future. Hayek warned about the ‘pretence of knowledge‘ in his Nobel acceptance speech. LTCM (run by Nobel laureates) ignored his warnings..

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Enough Said, I love your comment about the French Revolution although you left out some important facts. France was ruled by Louis the 15th and was considered a borderline retard and couldn’t run France. Corruption was widespread and the government couldn’t do nothing about it. France had debit because she couldn’t collect taxes to pay her debit. France was the richest country in the world and the people were going hungry because of the political system. The industrial revolution had changed the face of France and drew million of people from the country side to the cities and gave birth to a vast middle class in France. However, France was still ruled by the estates and the middle class wanted to have a voice in the government. Attempts were made to reform the system but each ended in failure because nobody wanted to give up their power. Unlike in England, the English were able to reform their system and give the people a voice in the government that were living in the cities.

      The US is faced with the same problem today because her coroporations are making billions and don’t want to pay taxes. In SA are you trying to compare Zuma to Louis 16th?

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Garg, very good comment about economic as not being a pure science. Speaking of Milton Freidman, he is the father of all of these problems with his ideas of free trade and the removal of government regulations. He says that regulations were not needed because in free market, the market would correct itself. All of these clowns in Washington followed this professor and removed the regulations, this is why the US had a meltdown.

      Another problem nobody talks about is China, in the free trade agreement China was supposed to let her yuan float in a free market. However, why has China has been allowed to peg her yuan to the US dollar? China’s trade policy has been the cause of much of the economic problems in the world today. This country has wipe out many industries in the world and SA has been suffering from China’s trade policy.

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Beddy, Stiglitz says that the US in 1929 went from an agriculture economy to a manufacturing economy and many people who were farming lost their jobs. These people working on farms and farming couldn’t pay back their loans and the market took a tumble. The US government spending on the military got the US out of the slump. The problem today in the US, the economy is going from a manufacturing economy to a service and no longer need all of these workers. To make matters worst many of these jobs have been outsourced to low wage countries like China. He has called for government to spend on education, roads and housing to create jobs. He is against cutting the budget like Ryan Paul is advocating because, it will make matter worst, by lowering the demands.

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Garg, you should read ‘Capitalist Fool’ by Joe Stiglitz and you will get a different opinion of this person. He blame Reagan, Clinton and Bush for the problems we have today. The worst mistake was the repeal the Glass Steagall Act that led to gambling in the market.

    • http://necrofiles.blogspot.com Garg Unzola

      @Sterling Ferguson:
      Pegging your currency to another is exactly what Friedman opposed. Washington clowns did not remove regulations – this is a great misconception. The Glass-Steagull act was effectively obsolete when it was repealed anyway. The Washington clowns continue to regulate and bail out and interfere.

      Also, Friedman was a statist like Stiglitz. He had no qualms about government intervention, but argued against government solutions that are often worse than the problems they are trying to solve. He also noted a few that were real problems.

      It was Friedman’s and Volcker’s policies that lead directly to the Great Moderation, although none of their ideas were implemented as they would have like to see them implemented. The US problems is a result of a housing bubble, which is the same problem that Ireland and Holland are now experiencing. Guess what resulted in the housing bubble?

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Sterling

      Neither in South Africa or American is spending into debt for TEMPORARY jobs going to create stability – in fact, the opposite when the jobs dry up and you STILL have the debt.

      America might have spent itself out of debt in the 1930s, though I query that farming had anything to do with a stock exchange collapse, but they did it ON CREDIT! America has increased debt since then to astronomical amounts, and since China never reigned in its main creditor, they just went on spending, helped by the dollar and not gold being the world currency standard.

      And it seems to me that Stiglitz is another American that does not know his history – maybe that is where I disagreed with him.

    • http://none Lyndall Beddy

      Romney also fits the picture of an American with no knowledge of History. I heard him on TV saying Obama has got unemployment to levels “last seen in the Great Depression”.

      At under 10 percent unemployment (1 in 10) America is no-where near the 1930s 25 percent (1 in 4 unemployed ).

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Garg, the banks are the ones that caused the bubble to burst. There are those that said the repeal of the Glass Steagall Act allowed the saving banks to speculate in the housing market, the commercial banks and the saving banks were forced to compete with one another. Stiglitz says in Capitalist Fools, that Volcker was doing a great job as the head of the treasury but, he supported regulation. Reagan had him removed and put Allan Greenspan in charge because he was a follower of Ayn Rand and was against regulation. Friedman thought that the free market shouldn’t have any regulations because the market could correct itself. Friedman might have been against the Chinese pegging her yuan to the dollar but, the Republicans and Democrats haven’t done anything about it. The pegging of the yuan by China to the dollar has led to an unfair trade advantage for China. Million of jobs have been shipped out of the US to China to take advantage of the cheap labor in that country.
      Greenspan told Congress that the economic system that Friedman and others were preaching was deeply flawed.

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Beddy, the US is not in a depression because the companies in this country are making billions in profit. In the depression in the 30s the companies were losing money and going broke. The job problem has been caused by the US outsourcing jobs to China to take advantage of her cheap labor. The same thing has happened in SA with this country exporting million of jobs to China. Take for example Apple, this company is making more money than all of the mines in SA however, very few people in the US are working for them.

    • http://necrofiles.blogspot.com Garg Unzola

      @Sterling Ferguson:
      Banks were speculating in the housing market long before that. The Glass-Steagull act did not prevent them from doing so, even before it was repealed in 1999. See savings and loans crisis.

      By the way, Reagan and Volcker added to the crisis here as they chased interest rates up, thereby providing incentives for banks to grand home loans. But who do we blame for Regulation Q and the bankruptcy of the FSLIC? Milton Friedman? Jimmy Carter?

      It’s not ‘deregulation’ when you hand control of banks over to a lender of last resort, insure their deposits with tax payer money, bail out government clowns and their cronies, and then blame Milton Friedman for the moral hazard that was systemic since the 1930s for his ‘deregulation’. It’s also not ‘deregulation’ when you provide incentive for speculation in some market segments with flawed regulation while keeping a tight regulatory grip on other segments (which Volcker and Carter did for the housing sector and Greenspan did for the derivatives sector). Naturally, you’d see an increase in supply in the ‘subsidised’ segments, while seeing a decline in the segments where you’ve doctored the demand.

      Stiglitz’s notion of assymetric information counts for regulators too.

    • Sterling Ferguson

      @Garg, while all of this was going on with the lack of regulation many people were making a killing. How many people in the US knew that this economy was faked and would soon tumble? Now, the Republicans don’t want to take the blame and the Democrats are not not taking the blame for this mess. When Obama tries to correct this problem, he is demonized.

    • http://necrofiles.blogspot.com Garg Unzola

      @Sterling:
      All this was going on with regulation, without regulation and with the full knowledge, consent and active participation of the powers that be.

      Obama is in on it too. Do you think his health care plan is designed to give health care to poor people? Why do you think the politically sensitive plans like social security remained untouched during the reign of Carter and Reagan? While they were allegedly ‘deregulation’ everything? US government expanded under Reagan, he was no free market guru (ask Paul Krugman). It’s only the politically naive who still believe ‘we just need to vote for the right guy!’.

      As an example, you’d be hard-pressed to find a better poster person for deregulation than Margaret Thatcher. Yet she had no issues with Public-private Partnerships.