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In praise of Michael Hudson

Written By: - Date published: 3:32 pm, November 3rd, 2022 - 39 comments
Categories: capitalism, China, debt / deficit, Diplomacy, Economy, Environment, Europe, Financial markets, Globalisation, history, jobs, monetary policy, Russia, socialism, Ukraine, us politics, war, welfare - Tags:

82-year old polymath Michael Hudson is my favourite economist. He currently lectures in China to million-strong audiences. His latest book is The Destiny of Civilisation: Finance Capitalism, Industrial Capitalism or Socialism. His latest article is well worth a read.

Titled Germany’s Position in America’s New World Order, it was originally published on the German e-site bravenewworld.com, and republished on the blogs Naked Capitalism and The Vineyard of the Saker. He previously identified the US objectives of the Ukraine war being to split Germany and the rest of Europe from the rising east. He outlines the stakes:

Germany has become an economic satellite of America’s New Cold War with Russia, China and the rest of Eurasia. Germany and other NATO countries have been told to impose trade and investment sanctions upon themselves that will outlast today’s proxy war in Ukraine. U.S. President Biden and his State Department spokesmen have explained that Ukraine is just the opening arena in a much broader dynamic that is splitting the world into two opposing sets of economic alliances. This global fracture promises to be a ten- or twenty-year struggle to determine whether the world economy will be a unipolar U.S.-centered dollarized economy, or a multipolar, multi-currency world centered on the Eurasian heartland with mixed public/private economies.

The whole article is well worth spending the time on. As stated, Hudson is a polymath: financial analyst, historian, political activist, economist. He explains the current geopolitical dynamic by reference to the medieval battles between the popes and the holy roman Empire for supremacy and tribute. He understands the destructive power of debt, and played akey role in the Jubilee 2000 campaign which resulted in massive debt relief for third-world countries.

A favourite book of mine is his and forgive them their debts, where he traces the history of debt forgiveness jubilees in Mesopotamia. Its not an easy read, but his opinion that Jesus was delivered up for execution by the Scribes and Pharisees because of his preaching against the rabbi Hillel’s workaround against the prohibition of usury resonates with me. It certainly explains the relevance of the cleansing of the Temple account in the synoptic gospels.

A nice touch occurred in the comments on Naked Capitalism cited above when he was asked by a commenter using the pseudonym Gramsci to clarify a somewhat obscure sentence in the item. I was grateful to the questioner as I couldn’t parse it either. No trouble, Hudson is humble, and back came a better explanation:

In practice, U.S. rhetoric accuses China of being autocratic in regulating its economy to promote its own economic growth and living standards, above all by keeping finance and banking as public utilities to promote the tangible production-and-consumption economy.

We are currently debating the relationship between finance capital and living standards in Aotearoa/New Zealand. In terms of the split between economic alliances, whether we like it or not we are being drawn/pushed/forced into the unipolar U.S.-centered dollarized economy.

Hudson outlines what is at stake:

What basically is at issue is whether economies will be planned by banking centers to create financial wealth – by privatizing basic infrastructure, public utilities and social services such as health care into monopolies – or by raising living standards and prosperity by keeping banking and money creation, public health, education, transportation and communications in public hands.

Michael Hudson and I will quite likely not be here in ten years’ time. I think the future of our families in Aotearoa/New Zealand and the world will be much better if all are playing a full part in a multi-polar, multi-currency world, following the second option.

 

39 comments on “In praise of Michael Hudson ”

  1. Woolly Mammoth 1

    Well done, Mike Smith.

    Hudson is a brilliant analyst. Many a commenter here would do well to read his 'Saker' and 'Naked Capitalism' columns and then see if they still support the official western narratives around China and Russia.

    Would recommend 'J is for Junk Economics', an evisceration of neoliberalism as Orwellian doublethink.

  2. Ad 2

    I would in turn recommend you read "Debt: The First 5000 Years" by David Graeber.

    This is the free PDF:

    graeber-debt_the_first_5000_years.pdf (warwick.ac.uk)

    Bit of a grind and nearly 400 pages but enlightening.

    New Zealand and Australia have done exceedingly well over three decades to balance and pivot between their interests in both China and the United States. Maybe Mr Hudson could pop down here to see how it's done.

    • satty 2.1

      Agreed. Other David Graeber (R.I.P.) books worth reading:

      • Bullshit Jobs
      • The Utopia of Rules (On technology, stupidity and the secret joys of bureaucracy)
  3. Jenny are we there yet 3

    Where Michael Hudson goes off the rails, is when he refers to, "today’s proxy war in Ukraine".

    Proxy means acting for someone else.

    https://thewordcounter.com/meaning-of-proxy/

    The fact is Russia is the aggressor and invader, in a war of choice.

    Ukraine is defending itself against Russian aggression.

    It's hard to be a proxy for someone else, when you are defending yourself.

    • mikesh 3.1

      Correction: It's hard to think of yourself as a proxy if you are defending yourself. Nevertheless America seems to have its grubby paws in a lot of pies around the world, including the Ukranian one. Could this war have continued without the continued supply of American military hardware. But as long as the Ukrainian "heroes" are fighting Russia, America will "nobly" back them all the way.

      I feel sorry for the Ukrainian people, who have been sucked into this horrible predicament through international political manipulations, and by the grandiose ambitions of their nationalist army.

      • Jenny are we there yet 3.1.1

        Jenny are we there yet

        …..It's hard to be a proxy for someone else, when you are defending yourself.

        Reply

        • mikesh

          Correction: It's hard to think of yourself as a proxy if you are defending yourself…..

        Good to see that you accept that Ukraine are defending themselves,, mikesh. There is hope for you yet.

        The point being mikesh, if someone attacks you, you have no choice but to defend yourself either that or submit and risk being beaten to a pulp, (or worse). And if your attacker is bigger and stronger than you, you also have no choice but to ask others for help.

        • mikesh 3.1.1.1

          Good to see that you accept that Ukraine are defending themselves,, mikesh. There is hope for you yet.

          I never doubted it. But they are merely pawns in the USA vs Russia chess game. One might defend a pawn in a chess game, but it is only a small part of the game. In this case it is the proxy battle that really matters.

          It’s good that they are defending themselves but their country is being destroyed in the process. they would be better off seeking peace.

          • Scud 3.1.1.1.1

            The Ukrainians would rather die fighting against Tsar Poot's Russia than seek Peace.

            The Ukrainian's remember Holodomor after it's 1st independence, also post WW2 under Stalin & even more recently Chernobyl.

            In there 2nd independence from Russia they voluntary gave up its Strategic Wpns under the Lisbon Protocol & Budapest Memorandum in return for Russian guarantees to respect Ukraine's Sovereignty and it's rights to make its own decisions IRT it's security & economic well-being. Which Tsar Poot's rip up when he sent his little green when his lackey got the boot.

            There is no way in hell & even if hell freezes over would Ukraine negotiate with Russia would be no!

            Because Ukraine has been burnt twice by Russia & this time they would go down fighting bastards than surrender nor negotiate with bastards!!

            All the expat Ukrainian's that I've met since this stupid war started by Tsar Poot's. Both young & old, have all said Ukrainian's would rather eat grass, starve & live in burnt out buildings than surrender or negotiate with those bastards from Russia.

            • mikesh 3.1.1.1.1.1

              Because Ukraine has been burnt twice by Russia & this time they would go down fighting bastards than surrender nor negotiate with bastards!!

              Which of course is music to Uncle Sam's ears!

              • Scud

                Because Russian guarantees are like Herr Hitler's guarantees not worth the paper they are written on.

                Which has left Ukraine, with no option but to go down swinging. Because they don't want to live under Russia Yoke/Rule again or are you in denial of Russian/ USSR treatment of Ukraine & it's people over the centuries?

                Yes the West isn't actually saints either, but Imperial Russia & later USSR Russia went to a whole different level.

                • mikesh

                  You are saying, in other words, that the Ukranians are Xenophobic. Holding grudges over centuries is stupid. I doubt there would even be many in Ukraine with direct experience of Holodomir. And in any case the Russians are not the only nation to have ruled Ukraine. At different times they have been ruled by Poles, Lithuanians and, I think, Hungarians.

                  • Scud

                    Do you actually read & or understand Eastern European History outside of your Anti Western/ US bubble?

                    Holodomor happened between the 20's & until the start of WW2. So most Ukrainian's these days would either a direct or indirect link to Stalin's famine.

                    Which Stalin's USSR made dammed sure to destroyed Ukrainian's written & oral History during Holodomor.

                    The most successful peace the UkR has ever had was during the Polish Lithuania Ukranian Commonwealth before Imperial Russia dismembered the Polish Lithuania Ukranian Commonwealth.

                    Eastern Europe is always going to be an enigma for people like you & yes their oral History is always going to be strong. Because when you have countries like Russia, who want to wipe any traces of written, Cultural & physical History so they won't/ can't ever rise up again to threaten Russia.

                    It's a shame you are not here in Adelaide atm? As I would take U to both the Ukrainian Catholic Church & the Ukrainian Orthodox Church for an Education in Ukrainian History!

                    If you think Ukraine bad for holding a grudge against Russia? Wait until the Poles, Baltic States & Finland rise up against Russia!

                    Especially the Poles & the Baltic States as they don't trust Russia's guarantees! Thence they asked to join NATO & the EU when they got the opportunity to do so.

                    • mikesh

                      Stalin died 70 years go, and his successor, Nikita Kruschev, was in fact Ukrainian. I still think it stupid to hold a grudge because of what Stalin did. You can present me with as much history as you like, but I will still think them stupid to hold a grudge because of someone who died 70 years ago.

                    • Scud []

                      Well you are going to have a hard time convincing them that they are stupid for holding a grudge against Russia. Oh btw do you do the same for Maori with ToW?

                      Eastern Europe (I'll throw the Greeks & Turks in as will because they like a fight as well) is always going to be a riddle/ enigma for people like you? Unless you are not prepared to understand it's History & it's culture.

                      Just like the arrogant Yanks in the Sandpit & that Muppet Blair who destroyed/ disbanded FCO Arabian Dept as well. Who failed to understand the History & Cultural/ Religious History of the Sandpit

                      Even most countries with Asia Pacific Region are wary of China's true intentions for the Region given centuries conflict by China & they are just as wary as the Japanese & US the intentions as well. But They also know that the US & Japan are Democracies & are less likely to rage war than authoritarian regimes like China, Russia & Nth Korea as these countries hold a grudge against the West & there fellow Asiatic Nations. Just like the Eastern European Countries have against Russia, as authoritarian are more likely to go to war than a democratic country expect for the Stupid Yanks.

                      There well be no peace in Eastern Europe until Tsar Poot's is removed from office, because he is a arrogant Slavic Male that thinks the world owns him a place in the world. Until then every Eastern European Countries would be looking East, because Russia is still the same Authoritarian Imperialist backwards looking country that has a bigger grudge than everyone else.

                      Which Russia will always be a that Eastern Europe riddle & enigma in Europe or words to that effect IRT one of Churchill quotes.

                    • mikesh

                      I may well have difficulty persuading the Ukrainians of their foolishness. So what.

                    • Scud []

                      Because you are a arrogant twat, who's thinks only that stupid Yanks & the Western imperialists goes round Invading other countries or understand what the late USSR & its Lackeys did in Eastern post WW2 until the end of the CW.

                      Well hello Russia & China are just as bad as the West. When they are given the opportunity too do the same a well.

          • Stuart Munro 3.1.1.1.2

            They are seeking peace – there is no security to be had from agreements with Russia however, so they are obliged to win it the hard way.

            It is Russia that needs to seek peace – while they still have a younger generation.

  4. Jenny are we there yet 4

    As a theorist and economist, Michael Hudson is absolutely right, debt is a tool of neo-imperialist subjugation and oppression of smaller nations by bigger ones. (Russia and China are as guilty of this practice as much as any Western neo-imperialist powers)

    But as a commentator on current events, Michael Hudson gets it wrong, when he refers to, "today’s proxy war in Ukraine".

    Proxy means acting for someone else.

    https://thewordcounter.com/meaning-of-proxy/

    The fact is Russia is the aggressor and invader, in a war of choice.

    Ukraine is defending itself against Russian aggression.

    It's hard to be a proxy for someone else, when you are defending yourself.

    • Tricledrown 4.1

      Hudson wouldn't be able to lecture in China if he had told the truth about China and Russia imperial ambitions

    • mikesh 4.2

      “(Russia and China are as guilty of this practice as much as any Western neo-imperialist powers)”

      What Hudson is talking about is the use of finance and debt as economic weapons. I don't think the Russians are guilty of this, preferring instead to employ good, honest warfare to achieve their ends – just like that "evil" chap, Abraham Lincoln, did in 1860. China, on the other hand, is more subtle, preferring to employ diplomacy.

      America's aims seem to be based on a theory advanced by one, Halford McKinder, who believed that whichever country controls the "heartland" would control the world. The heartland seems to be the area around the Black Sea.

      • Jenny are we there yet 4.2.1

        All imperial powers use 'Soft Power. But violence and war are always their fallback position. When Soft Power is not enough to get the sort of submission the imperial power practicing it wants from the subject nation, then the use of Hard Power, is the next logical step for a bigger country to impose their will on a smaller one.
        Often Soft Power and Hard Power are wielded together.

        China uses Soft Power to gain access to resources and port facilities in Pacific Island countries and then shores this up with warship visits as a warning to rival powers like the US not to intervene.
        This is how Soft Power Rivalry can turn into Hard Power clashes.

        So far the US and Australia have responded to Chinese expansion in the South Pacific, with diplomatic pressure and greater investment to counter Chinese Soft Power.

        A global recession, will heighten the tension and raise the stakes. China will not want to relinquish their gains. The US and Australia will not want to them keep them.

        War between them is inevitable.

        • mikesh 4.2.1.1

          War between them is inevitable.

          Just so. The Ukrainian war is just a preliminary skirmish.

          • Scud 4.2.1.1.1

            The Ukrainian War is only the beginning of the end or the opening prelude to Wagner's ring cycle & we all know how that ends?

          • Jenny are we there yet 4.2.1.1.2

            A skirmish can be prevented from turning into a full scale war, if it can be thoroughly repulsed.

            Slava Ukraine

        • Scud 4.2.1.2

          Nicely put Jerry, as I've said countless times here we are slowly sleep walking towards war weather we want it or not & eventually NZ would have to pick a side as Neutrality is not an option given the rundown state of the NZDF since the 90's.

          As I don't think the average punter in NZ, would to see a massive increase in funding & rebuilding lost NZDF Capabilities of last 3-4 decades without more funding in Health, Education, social security & Rail etc etc.

  5. Jenny are we there yet 5

    Classic imperialism.

    Calling himself a 'Marxist' Michael Hudson is right in identifying the mechanisms of modern imperialism., I think where he falls down is in ascribing these practices to the big Western capitalist powers of Europe the US Britain etc. and ignores the reality that every country with a capitalist economy predicated on endless growth, either need to expand their influence and control or suffer contraction and recession. Big countries will prey on smaller countries. Smaller countries will resist.

    Neo-imperialism

    …..Speaking to the Los Angeles Times, Tsinghua University law professor, Xu Zhangrun, asked some pertinent questions:

    “Why is China, a country with over 100 million people who are still living below the poverty line, playing at being the flashy big-spender? How can such wanton generosity be allowed?”

    ….according to economic analysts, China’s neverending loans could lead Africa down a slippery slope of unpayable debt. In the last 18 years, China has pumped more than $124 billion into Africa, while the International Monetary Fund has warned of increasing debt distress in 15 African countries.

    China’s new ‘Silk Road’ has run into problems surrounding mounting debt and cries of neo-colonialism.

    ……In August of this year, Malaysian Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, abruptly cancelled China-funded projects, stating:

    “We do not want a situation where there is a new version of colonialism happening because poor countries are unable to compete with rich countries.”

    Unfortunately, poorer countries are often too eager to get their hands on the money. Take Sri Lanka for example; the nation snapped up a Chinese loan which has now resulted in debt exceeding $13 billion.

    Unable to settle its ever-growing debt, thanks to burgeoning inflation rates, the small island nation was, in effect, forced to sell Hambantota port to the Chinese.

    The port, which was constructed by the Chinese, with the use of Chinese funds and labour, is now a Chinese-controlled naval base on foreign soil…..

    https://www.thesouthafrican.com/news/debt-colonialism-china-africa-resources/

  6. mikesh 6

    As you say, the Sri Lankan port was built with Chinese labour and money, so I doubt whether exploitation was actually the original objective. China seems to be endeavoring to to match the US's array of bases around the world.

  7. I wish the churches would highlight the economic part of Jesus' message a lot more. This is intriguing:

    Jesus was delivered up for execution by the Scribes and Pharisees because of his preaching against the rabbi Hillel’s workaround against the prohibition of usury

    but it lines up with JC's other teachings about Money (aka Mammon). He talked about the love of money quite a lot, as we mortals are inordinately fond of the stuff.

    But as Chris Hedges has pointed out in the past, the American churches have led the way in excising the idea of economic justice from the Gospel, instead establishing a disgusting money grubbing cult that is totally in thrall to corporate America

    • Jenny are we there yet 7.1

      Chris Hedges is a worthy commentator. Like Abby Martin, Chris Hedges is one of those principled RT hosts who broke with the Russian Government news channel over the Russian Federation invasion and war against Ukraine.

  8. aj 8

    I don't think he 'broke', that's an unusual term to use when his show was a victim of censorship.

    YouTube has deleted the entire archive of “On Contact,” an Emmy-nominated television show by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges which was hosted on the Russian government-funded news channel RT America. We speak with Hedges, who connects the YouTube censorship of his show to a growing crackdown on dissenting voices in American media. “There’s less and less space for those who are willing to seriously challenge and question entrenched power,” says Hedges, who says “opaque entities” like YouTube shouldn’t have the power to take down outlets like RT America, despite the channel’s source of funding. “Are we better off not hearing what Russia has to say?” asks Hedges.

    https://www.democracynow.org/2022/4/1/on_contact_chris_hedges_youtube_russia

    • Jenny are we there yet 8.1

      Hedges said he "might have paid with" his job for making negative comments about the war in Ukraine, "but at least for those six days", after the invasion, he remained in post.[63]….

      In a March 2022 piece for the Salon website, Hedges wrote that the Russian invasion of Ukraine was "a criminal war of aggression",….

      ….Hedges called for an immediate ceasefire and "a moratorium on arms shipments to Ukraine and the withdrawal of Russian troops from the country."[88]

      In his 2022 book The Greatest Evil is War, Hedges writes:

      Preemptive war, whether in Iraq or Ukraine, is a war crime.

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Hedges

      Preemptive war, is a war crime. Chapter VII Article 39 of the UN charter.

      Action with Respect to Threats to the Peace, Breaches of the Peace, and Acts of Aggression

      Article 39

      The Security Council shall determine the existence of any threat to the peace, breach of the peace, or act of aggression and shall make recommendations, or decide what measures shall be taken in accordance with Articles 41 and 42, to maintain or restore international peace and security.

      • mikesh 8.1.1

        Preemptive war, whether in Iraq or Ukraine, is a war crime.

        He's wrong of course. He cannot generalise like that. There would surely have to be exceptions. He is trying to prove Russia is committing a war crime using faulty logic i.e.:

        All preemptive attacks are war crimes. Russia has launched a preemptive attack. Therefor Russia is a war criminal.

        It doesn't work because the first premise is invalid.

  9. aj 10

    Incognito: yes, taken aboard, sorry.

    Chris Hedges is a worthy commentator.

    Who articulates his views very well, and a person whose views on both sides of the current conflict are shared, I think, with a number of commentators here that you spar with. I certainly agree with his take.

    He also believes it is a proxy war:

    I have covered enough wars to know that once you open that Pandora’s box, the many evils that pour out are beyond anyone’s control. War accelerates the whirlwind of industrial killing. The longer any war continues, the closer and closer each side comes to self-annihilation. Unless it is stopped, the proxy war between Russia and the U.S. in Ukraine all but guarantees direct confrontation with Russia and, with it, the very real possibility of nuclear war.

    https://consortiumnews.com/2022/10/25/chris-hedges-stop-worrying-love-the-bomb/

  10. The comments under this post exemplify the problem faced by Michael Hudson & fellow critics of the Capitalist Death Cult.

    Kleptocratic governments (East and West) commonly use great power geopolitics, crisis narratives, and disinfo tactics to keep the masses confused and distracted.

    Any time that class consciousness begins to break out, witness the character assassinations (Assange, Corbyn) or actual assassinations of inconvenient witnesses (Epstein). War (or warlike rhetoric) is a reliable way to keep the workers compliant and scared. Hence we have the red herrings in this comment section.

    I suspect that Elon Musk (a great pal of Peter Thiel) has parachuted in to Twitter to stop real democracy or class solidarity from taking place in America.

    Power to the people.

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