“The purpose of Newspeak,” George Orwell, wrote in his novel 1984, “was not only to provide a medium of expression for the worldview and mental habits proper to the devotees of Ingsoc [Orwell’s name for the ruling regime in 1984], but to make all other modes of thought impossible.”
The columnist William Pfaff, with whom we often agree, used Orwell’s quote yesterday to describe how the United States government has come to inextricably support the bases at Guantanamo, which he likens to Gulags of Stalinist Russia – only worse because Gulag sentences, at least, had an end date.
While closing the base seems to have become politically impossible, “something still might usefully be said about this situation,” Pfaff writes with perceptively dying hope. It’s “obviously a phenomenon of totalitarian character, emulating, no doubt wittingly, the destruction of judicial constraint in the Nazi system by means of arbitrary imprisonment in concentration camps and by methods generalized in Gestapo and SS practice, and in Stalinist Russia by its secret police and forced labor camps.”
If you haven’t read the piece, we recommend you do so here: Locked In.
As frightening as Pfaff’s perception of Guantanamo is, we couldn’t help but think of Orwell this morning when listening to NPR’s coverage of Office for National Statistics’ release of British gross domestic product (GDP) this morning.
Fact is, GDP in Great Britain turned positive again in the first quarter of 2011 – just barely. The statisticians in London reckon the UK economy grew 0.5%, making up for the 0.5% loss in Q4 2010.
The news was interpreted as a disaster by an analyst from the City talking to Morning Edition. The “austerity measures” put in place by the Cameron government will continue to “suppress” GDP, unless the central bank opens the monetary spigots to counter the closing of the fiscal ones.
Since quantitative easing (QE) in Britain has amounted to a quaint $121 billion since the panic of 2008 – out of nearly $5 trillion pursued by the US, European Union and Japan – the commentator presumes the English are doomed.
When asked to speculate on the effect of “austerity measures” proposed by the US president for the US economy, the commentator couldn’t fathom it. What might actually happen if the Fed pulled back on QE and Congress actually proposed to get spending in line?
Shiver me timbers. All economic activity is derived from government spending or monetary easing. To think of the economy in any other terms has become politically “irresponsible”… even “kookie”… these days. One can’t even imagine it.
The analogy between foreign policy and monetary policy would be a hoot, if the societal trend weren’t so ominous.
“Guantanamo has been a factor in what it is not unreasonable to call the totalitarianization of American political culture,” Pfaff asserts in his piece, “taking place through the effective prohibition (or demonization) of certain political stances, or of the advocacy of certain political positions, deemed ‘unpatriotic’ and therefore unacceptable in the political discourse of the nation – including, in some cases, in congressional discourse and debate.”
As much as it is heretical to disagree with foreign policy made behind closed doors by unelected officials, so is it equally impolite to question the wisdom of monetary policy made behind closed doors by another group of men in Washington.
We presume the press conferences now scheduled by the Federal Reserve, the first of which we’ll be witnessing this afternoon, are designed to open the closed doors.
But still we have our suspicions.
“What are the odds?” for example, we couldn’t help but thinking as we put pen to paper this morning “that on the eve of Ben Bernanke’s first regularly scheduled press conference the stock market has reached multiyear highs?”
The Dow and the S&P are now at levels last seen in June 2008. The Nasdaq, on a tear, hasn’t seen territory like this since January 2001.
Bernanke couldn’t ask for anything better. Why, we can just imagine the setting for this press conference.
“Yeah, baby, the wealth effect!”: Shock and awe econostyle.
“Stock prices rose and long-term interest rates fell,” Bernanke wrote in his Op-Ed in the day after the Federal Reserve formally launched “QE2” last November, “when investors began to anticipate” a new round of easy money. Mission accomplished.
Addison Wigginfor The Daily Reckoning
Addison Wiggin is the executive publisher of Agora Financial, LLC, a fiercely independent economic forecasting and financial research firm. He's the creator and editorial director of Agora Financial's daily 5 Min. Forecast and editorial director of The Daily Reckoning. Wiggin is the founder of Agora Entertainment, executive producer and co-writer of I.O.U.S.A., which was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival, the 2009 Critics Choice Award for Best Documentary Feature, and was also shortlisted for a 2009 Academy Award. He is the author of the companion book of the film I.O.U.S.A.and his second edition of The Demise of the Dollar, and Why it's Even Better for Your Investments was just fully revised and updated. Wiggin is a three-time New York Times best-selling author whose work has been recognized by The New York Times Magazine, The Economist, Worth, The New York Times, The Washington Post as well as major network news programs. He also co-authored international bestsellers Financial Reckoning Day and Empire of Debt with Bill Bonner.
Lots of shock, very little awe, nothing accomplished.
Mr.Pfaff is dead on the money. I never dreamed my country would be doing the things it is doing today. What else is there to say…
There you go…we need a little more humor to lighten the insanity we’re living through.
Actually we should send thank you cards to Benny. He’s been godsend for gold investors.
perhaps it might read:
stock and oil (with a heavy Texas accent)
Gold is going no where,,, The dollar however, is devaluing rapidly. It’s surprising to me that some think their making money when after it’s all said and done,,, all their extra money is worth less…
Gold CAN increase in buying power because it’s demand can go up (as a store of value for example) or its supply can be restricted.
Like any other commodity, it’s value can rise or fall through supply and demand. It can even reach bubble stage. It can be cornered and dumped as well.
It can be mandated by law or it can be prohibited by law as well. How much would gold be worth if the government confiscated it under penalty of death. Presumably few people would want to own it. Then again, this would restrict supply…
(Something like this may very well happen btw.) Gold bugs seldom address this issue.
The quack policy that was good for stock owners in North America turned out even better for those in Japan.
From under which fetid igneous formation did these IRS slugs slither?
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In places like Mongolia or Myanmar, for example, you find today’s Dakota Territory.