Matt Stoller: Naked Capitalism – Your Weapon Against Strongmen and Strawmen

Matt Stoller: Naked Capitalism – Your Weapon Against Strongmen and Strawmen


By Matt Stoller, a Fellow at the Open Markets Institute, who is writing a book on monopoly power in the 20th century for Simon and Schuster

A few months ago, Yves Smith wrote a blog post talking about how her laptop broke. I sent her $500, and I wish I could have sent her ten times as much. The reason is simple. Yves looks at problems before they are obvious, and warns us about them. She is a free thinker, “feral,” as she puts it, and she detests the bullies in power because she can see the nihilism they are bringing forth upon our world.

Yves, and all of us, are part of a long tradition in America that goes back hundreds of years. In 1835, Alexis de Tocqueville noted the diversity of newspapers and magazines in America, saying “There is scarcely a hamlet which has not its own newspaper.” Because of this diversity, enabled by government policies like the Post Office subsidizing circulation, and advertising, De Tocqueville believed America was safe from strongmen, unlike centralized European aristocracies. This diversity prevented men of wealth from using concentrated information channels to “excite the passions of the multitude to their own advantage.”

In writing Naked Capitalism, in reading it, in being part of this discussion, we are part of the immune system against autocracy. Since I study monopoly, I’ll note that her job has been getting a lot harder, and your contributions a lot more important. Naked Capitalism has two basic revenue streams. The first is your contributions. The second is online advertising.

Over the last few years, it turns out, and this won’t surprise you, that Google and Facebook have monopolized the targeted ad market, taking roughly 63% of its revenues. This hits every newspaper and content creator that makes money from online advertising. Pittsburgh, for instance, is the first major city to go without a daily newspaper. It is, however, for a variety of reasons, much worse for smaller sites like this one. Yves has been starved of revenue by a legal system that is concentrating power and wealth in the hands of plutocrats in Palo Alto.

Every dollar you give will help to make up for this. Please go now to the Tip Jar, which tells you how to contribute by credit or debit card, check, or Paypal.

I’ve been reading Naked Capitalism since 2006, when the financial crisis was gathering steam, and when no one seemed to know anything about the mess of complex structured financial instruments ripping through our culture. And I include the people who built them as part of this large circus of ignorant fools. Yves actually took the time to study the problem, and write about it publicly, using this forum with many of you to collectively understand what was happening.

She did this with the foreclosure crisis, the Eurozone crisis, and now this year the absolute shitshow that is Brexit. She’s doing it with CalPERS, a key source of power which is ignored by virtually everyone in politics. It’s hard sometimes to see the value in something like this. What is the point of standing up to bullies in a world dominated by them? Why should someone stand on a public square and shout, often into the void, the truth, when no one in power wants to hear it?

And the answer is, because some of us want to fix things. Democrats are in all likelihood going to get another shot at power. The center left, all over the world, will eventually reconstitute itself, internalize lessons, and try to govern again. We fucked it up last time. But this time we have a new advantage. This blog. People like Yves. And you. We can remember what to do and what not to do.

We also have more allies this time. The corporate world is beginning to swing away from libertarianism, as they see the threat imposed by super-monopolists over just the regular ‘ole monopolists. Historians are writing the history of the financial crisis, and using Naked Capitalism as a source. China’s authoritarianism can no longer be ignored, the global utopian insanity of neoliberalism is over.

It’s hard to believe this, but this community is projecting power. There’s heat on CalPERS. No one accepted the bullshit Geithner and Paulson put out a few weeks ago. Uber has been defanged, and will continue to deteriorate, because of something as simple as the truth. Jerri-Lynn’s work on ‘right to repair’ can bring together techies and farmers angry at control over their lives by both John Deere and Apple. Lambert works on health care to bring together medical practitioners and patients enraged at their treatment by health insurance and hospital monopolies, while simultaneously skewering Silicon Valley monopolists and wannabes under the aegis of “The Bezzle.” Lambert’s broad-spectrum coverage of the political scene not only inoculates the readership against bullshit, but also builds a record that will hold Democrats in power accountable in future.

As crises like Brexit, or climate change imposes reality on all of us, we are going to need solutions. It won’t be a question of the status quo preventing change, it will be a question of which path to take. Those who have thought about it, those who remember, will determine the shape of our culture.

That is why I give. That is why you should give. Because we need to remember. We need to face the truth. We need to have the courage to give up on our illusions and face our moral duties.

That is what Yves, and all of you, do for me, and each other. That is who we are. We hate bullies. Invest in informational ammo by supporting this community; the Tip Jar tells you how.

Give what you can. If you have more, give more. If you can only send a note of appreciation, do that. It matters. I can tell you, it’s a hard moment. But a critical one.

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