Lexicon of Special Terms Used on this Website
analyst: someone who seeks to describe a subject as a process; someone who invents an explanatory narrative, usually by dividing things into parts. In politics, analysts seek to avoid passsing judgment; when they do, they are declaring that the thing judged is outside of the analytical narrative. Analysts usually fall into one of two modes (meaning, the same person can function in either): in one, the analyst is determined to develop a narrative that conforms to the old rules, but explains something that doesn't fit. In the second mode, the analyst relaxes a rule or two in order to alter the other narratives, or to create new ones. The first mode I call "apologia"; the second, "exploration." Both are actually useful, although the second is obviously more interesting.
Augustine's Syndrome: see St. Augustine's Syndrome
balance of payments (BoP): The sum of the Capital account balance and the Current account balance. Unless some extraordinary conditions prevail, the capital account surplus generally tends to approximate, over long time horizons, the current account deficit, tending towards a very small balance of payments. If not, then the BoP will be large and negative (e.g., the USA), which means a large foreign accumulation of the country's currency, or else it will be large and positive (e.g., the EU membership, China, Japan), leading to a large domestic reserve of foreign currency.
The implications of a large BoP deficit by any one country is a matter of controversy. Some have argued that, as long as a critical mass of currency markets regard the US dollar as reliable, the US dollar acts as a sort of new gold exchange standard, a commodity-money standard that just happens to be universally accepted. I believe this cheer view of the matter is convincingly refuted by Brad Setser and Nouriel Roubini. Generally speaking, there is a grave danger that the vast global stockpile of US dollars abroad will become, in effect, an unsecured liability. A safeguard against this would be to contrive trade policy to ensure that a time-discounted value of future US trade surpluses is not significantly different from the net accumulation of past balances. This would, of course, require many years. bureaucratic: used here, a characteristic of state/business organization in which most objectives are subordinated to the internal administrative business of the organization itslf. Hence, a putatively Communist organization might set aside any of the various social goals of the revolution in favor of ensuring continued survival of the regime at minimal difficulty.
Bureaucracy arises from an organization with state power (such as the police), or one guaranteed by state power (such as a corporation or a post office). The delegation of this power to functionaries and managers creates certain organizational attributes that are inevitable and universal, regardless of the underlying ideology.
capital account balance (KAB): All net inflows of capital investment into the USA; includes portolio investment and foreign direct investment (FDI). Portfolio investment consists of foreigners buying stocks, or bonds (S&B) in domestic corporations. FDI includes non-securitized commercial stakes, such as a venture capitalist supplying the finance capital for a startup. When we speak of net capital inflows, we are subtracting domestic investment in ventures overseas from foreign investment in ventures located domestically. Therefore, the KAB constitutes four components:
foreign purchases of domestic S&B (or increases in FDI)Statistics on the US capital account balance may be found at the Treasury Department website.
conservative: sees social problems as a result of an outsider attacking society.
cult of optimism: a pathology of organizations in which skepticism about success is regarded as disloyal. Think of it this way: all machines should be designed under the assumption of Murphy's Law. An airplane designed by an "optimist" is not one I would consent to let my beloved fly in.
current account balance (CAB): the sum of our trade surplus (that's right, insert a negative number here), net revenue from investments abroad (insert a small positive number here), and net foreign aid (a small negative number here). For the USA, this figure is overwhelmingly dominated by that huge negative number, our merchandise trade balance.
demagogue: attract followings who believe they are ideologuess; if their followers are fortunate, they soon realize that the demogogue's narrative is essentially tautological-so there is no possible course of action to remedy the problem. Usually demagogues don't have one; they often are in positions where they are not expected to.
economic rents: in the economics sense of the word, "rent" refers to the income accruing to a productive factor for which no exact substitute exists. Hence, the owner of land receives rent for its use (even the owner is the one actually using it) because of the unique opportunities afforded by the land's unique location. "Economic rents" constitute a part of the revenue stream of factors, the part greater than what is required to induce the owner to offer them on the market. Also, "monopoly rents" are the income stream that is generated by virtue of the firm's possessing a monopoly (and hence being unique.) Here are a few links explaining the concept of monopoly rents: Wikipedia; University of Dublin—Trinity College
factor of production: in economics, a category of thing used in the production of goods and services. There are conventionally three factors: land, labor, and capital. The income that is paid out to land is rent; to labor, wages; and to capital, interest. In addition to these three factors, some economists refer to entrepreneurship, whose income is profit. "Land" can be understood to refer to both the the surface of the earth, and to mineral rights; hence, "oil rents," which refers to the especially high revenues enjoyed by the owner of an oil field whose costs of recovery are below what is required to induce her to make it available to the market. See also economic rents.
globalization: a term reportedly originating with the business periodical The Economist in 1959, although that publication makes no such claim on its own behalf and actually disparages its use in this context as a "buzzword."
A buzz word that refers to the trend for people, firms and governments around the world to become increasingly dependent on and integrated with each other. This can be a source of tremendous opportunity, as new markets, workers, business partners, goods and SERVICES and jobs become available, but also of competitive threat, which may undermine economic activities that were viable before globalisation.(However, The Economist has also used the word in precisely this sense itself on numerous occasions.)
The problem with the word "globalization" in this sense is when one expresses opposition to it.
hard right: a segment of rightwing zealotry that glorifies violence and calls for the destruction of the civil order; because of its violent hatred of non-rightwing centers of power, the hard right is characterized by an obsession with revolution and massacres of the objective enemy.
ideologue: someone who takes a narrative ("ideology") and converts it into a course of action. The term is typically applied by people who research terrorist organizations, to the people who decide what the group should do next. While "ideologue" is usually used in a perjorative sense, in daily life the job is crucial: in a sense, human rights groups are ideologues, since they refine courses of action for societes with liberal ideologies.
In one important sense, Marxism is a religion. To the believer it presents, first, a system of ultimate ends that embody the meaning of life and are absolute standards by which to judge events and actions; and, secondly, a guide to those ends which implies a plan of salvation and the indication of the evil from which mankind, or a chosen section of mankind, is to be saved. We may specify still further: Marxist socialism also belongs to that subgroup which promises paradise on this side of the grave.Schumpeter respected Marx immensely as a philosopher and scholar; his grievance was explicitly with Marxism's pretensions to being, in effect, a full-fledged religion, capable of explaining everything. The attributes of what Schumpeter calls "religion," are really the elements of ideology, and a lot of what passes for religion in contemporary society barely even aspires to the status of mere ideology.
To justly describe an ideology, one must acknowledge its tendency to expand in scope over time. The power of the Marxist ideology was that, unlike abortive socialist conceptions of the 19th century, it could be applied to everything. It could be conceived in a vulgar way (over the angry objections of Marx himself) and extrapolated to apply everything. However, in its purest form, ideologies not only absolve the adherent from thinking and from any sort of critical judgment; they engulf the adherent in a comforting coat of platitudes, proof against any threat. The ideology's failure to achieve power is justified by the extraordinary requirements of purity and self-abnegation it makes of the true believer; only those who are properly indoctrinated in the mysteries can actually exercise power. When, at last, the ideology attains power, its confrontation eith objective reality is explained in advance by the extraordinary originality of its propositions, and the difficulty of lesser mortals to assimilate them. When, at alst, the ideology has conclusively failed, and been driven from power, it has by then long since explained why: there were many enemies, infiltrators, and mercenaries who betrayed the movement, slandered the movement, conspired against the movement, used main force against the movement. Please see fundamentalism, temporal myopia, unity of enemies, and vengeful overshoot.
jackass: someone habituated to equating personal misfortunes and frustrations to the most profound injustices. Usually, one reserves "jackass" for those who imagine their thoughts, feelings, and aspirations to be of profound importance. Not only are frustrations imagined to be tantamount to extreme horrors; insights, however banal, are supposed to be original and urgent when indeed they are utterly routine. People agitatating on behalf of others cannot be jackasses, however misguided they might be. Please see whining.
leftwing: ideologically hostile to current social relations, on the grounds that they support an unjust system of production. Favors other social goals above productive efficiency.
An interesting sidenote to this: outside of the United States, the term "liberal" is generally associated with free markets and ample civil rights. Hence, the Australian Liberal Party is in favor of less government regulation of the economy, lower taxes, and [traditionally] less state interference in personal life. Likewise, the Liberal Party of Belgium corresponds roughly to the Conservative Party of the UK. Usually the economic aspect of this is called "neo-liberal" to avoid confusion; the broader equation of economic (or commerical) freedom with civil rights and political democracy is usually called "classic liberalism." In the USA, liberals have tended to be associated with the New Deal Reforms of the 1st term of Franklin D Roosevelt; these include certain state guarantees of a minimum income for the elderly, the separation of church and state, policies more in harmony with those of US allies, environmentalism, a systemic and orderly erradication of racism, the reform of sexist gender roles, tolerance for a wider range of culural norms, and a more honest (ergo, more self-critical) assessment of US history. In Latin America and Southern Europe, these views are usually associated with "radical parties," and the Transnational Radical Party is an international union of [US-style] liberal parties. In Northern Europe, the equivalent would traditionally be "social democratic,"
main bank: a bank employed by the national government to finance development. Most frequently the main bank functions in countries where financial markets are underdeveloped and the national government wants to facilitate FDI. However, in developed countries like Germany and Japan, the main bank is nominally private; government-main bank relations are carried out through reciprocal arrangements. Main banks enjoy extraordinary privileges and usually act as the cutting edge of the government's national industrial policy.
Most countries have main banks, although in each country the arrangement is slightly different. In smaller countries, there is typically one main bank that gradually evolves into a city bank. In larger countries of East Asia, the pattern is for there to be multiple main banks with highly personal ties to the government; there is direct duplication of effort, but the purpose of the multiple main banks is to conserve the strength of each one. In Western Europe, multiple main banks again vary dramatically by country, but the general pattern is for considerable specialization.
narrative: explains an event or outcome of any kind. This could be a scientific phenomenon, like why wood floats in water, or it could be an ideological one, such as why the natives are making a disturbance. People compose a narrative to explain the things that fail to meet expectations, such as the success of a despised rival, or the kindness of a dreaded alien.
paradox: a proposition is one that has no truth value because it cannot be so. If one takes them literally, they are absurd. Hence, the statement, "This sentence is false," or "Everything James R MacLean says is a lie." If you read it here, it's a paradox. Usually paradoxical beliefs involve propositions which are true enough if describing tendencies, but cannot be read as universal laws: for example, "If a person doesn't believe there's discrimination against African Americans, he's probably discriminating against them." A wag reading this might wonder if, then, if everyone believed racism was a problem, it would therefore cease to exist-making the statement seemingly paradoxical. The reason it is not, is that the proposition applies individually, not universally; and the null of the proposition is "If a person believes there is discrimination against African Americans" is "he may or may not be discriminating against them," not "he is not discriminating against them."
The piggybacker usually attempts to couch the claim ambiguously, as was the case with the "Death to Hollywood!" demagogue mentioned earlier; that writer was not proposing to say that the attackers were in touch with him, or that he somehow had a unique insight into the real motives of the perpetrator; merely that, in some convoluted way, the natural scheme of justice had served the Americans right (when it so seldom does elsewhere). A far more common case is when a riot is claimed to be an inarticulate insurgency, and some scribbler claims to be issuing commands into the ether, while sotto voce addressing the society whose city is going up in flames. The piggybacker often serves the extreme reactionary, who can go along with the travesty and insist that the piggybacker's ideology is a terrible menace to society generally and must be stamped out, even where it doesn't exist.
there is the absence of effective political institutions capable of mediating, refining and moderating group political actions. Social forces confront each other nakedly; no political institutions or professional political leaders are recognized and accepted as legitimate intermediaries to moderate group conflict.Please see fascism, falangism, and totalitarianism.
preferred victim: a form of colonialism in which the plight of a group that is genuinely victimized in a weak society is exploited by a foreign power. The society itself, being weak, is vulnerable to foreign conquest or extortion; a victimized segment of its population, such as the Maronites of 19th-century Lebanon, may furnish a foreign power with a pretext for intervention. Typically, governments planning a colonial adventure abroad tend to develop an obsession with the human rights of the citizens of the target country. In virtually all cases, the method of redress demanded will ensure the target country loses sovereignty even before military action takes place.
A common point of confusion is whether or not the "preferred victim" is really a victim or not. Opponents of the imperialist adventure will often discredit themselves by insisting the human rights record of the target country is immaculate, when in fact it is anything but. In fact, all countries facing an insurgency tend to inflict very severe human rights violations, especially if the insurgency is large and purports to stand for an ethnic community, and if its demands would spell the end of the state. The real problem is that the foreign interloper tends to drastically raise the stakes, ensuring the intractiblity of the insurgency and the targetted regime.
rightwing: protective of current social relations, on the grounds that they support only legitimate and/or prudent method of organizing society. Believes productive managers entitled to enforce these relations through friendly political functionaries.
The term "sadist" has been misused to mean "cruel" for any reason; people can of course be cruel out of hatred of or indifference to their victims. Cruelty can also be inflicted for raison d'etat.
Scripted lies, among ideologues, cease to have the odium of lies. When top officials in the Reagan Administration lied about exchanging arms for hostages, they knew the Soviets knew they were lying; the real target was a few American liberals, who were the real enemy—they had lower security clearance, so to speak, than the Soviets. Lying to them served no purpose except postponing their ability to use the President's law-breaking against him or future Republicans. Yet conservatives mostly defended the president's lies on national security grounds. Hence, a scripted lie, shaped by ideology, had lost its odium.
"No Scotsman puts sugar in his porridge."The most common tautology I've ever seen is the proposition that all human behavior is selfish. Examples of selfless behavior are punctured by the claim that the "selfless" person was actually guided by self-benefitting motives, which are expanded to include benefits from beyond the grave: the atheist who lays down her life for her cause or her family, the statesman who takes a nobel but politically disastrous position, and so on.
temporal myopia: a delusion that the situation one faces now is somehow universal through all time, or else, the most extreme. A good example is Ziauddin Sardar's reference to "the unparalleled suffering that American imperial might has inflicted on the unfortunate of the earth." This is an exaggeration; but Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany, imperial Britain and France, to say nothing of Timur-i-Lang, Genghis Khan, or other empires, aren't of concern to his readers. See also unity of enemies and vengeful overshoot.
totalitarianism: a type of political status closely linked to fascism, but differs in several respects. First, fascism in its nascent forms tends to look to the far right; however, in the fullness of time, it is likely to become entirely bureaucratic, and void of genuine ideological content. In contrast, totalitarianism includes both fascism and the dictatorship of the proletariat, as well as other extreme ideologies (included the extreme prudentialist regime, essentially a creature of fictional dystopia). On the other hand, totalitarianism reflects an extreme fulfillment of these ideologies, utterly surpassing the mere reign of terror or dissolution of parliamentary machinery. Please see praetorian state and falangism. See also this discussion of Hannah Arendt's Origins of Totalitarianism, [ 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 ]
"unity of enemies": a common frame of mind of the person suffering from paranoid delusions; the phrase is also useful in describing ideologies. Ideologies are often inclined to advance a single, simple, clear explanation for everything, leading to fundamentalism. When an ideology is in power, it often faces a painful confrontation with objective reality, leading the ideologue to explain that this is all the result of enemies conspiring to defeat the ideals of the revolution. As the number of "enemies" grows, the ideologue (or paranoiac) will tend to assume they are acting in concert. A typical example is the political conservative who equates 3rd International Communists with Maoists, and both with New Deal liberals. (For a specific example of what I mean, look up Amazon's customer review section of any book by John Kenneth Galbraith or Keynes' General Theory.) Believing that one's enemies are united gives one the impression that one's personal struggles with those enemies are the most important battles that they face; it flatters both the paranoiac's sense of self-importance, and his sense of accomplishment (since failures, being against a bigger enemy, are easier to understand).
"Unity of enemies" is linked with temporal myopia (excessive importance attached to present difficulties) and with vengeful overshoot because the person promoting them is unable to rise out of his resentment. Both ancillary delusions support the extravagent vengefulness and anger that the paranoiac is likely to feel towards the object of his delusions.
vengeful overshoot: Human nature often craves that revenge surpass the provocation; and sometimes, that means that even innocent people indirectly associated with the perpetrator get targeted as well. This escalates as the efficacy of the vengeance declines; if I am cunning and ruthless, and I can orchestrate the mauling of the youths who broke into my car—because, let us imagine, I am the leader of a large criminal gang—then that will likely do fine. But if I am a playwright or such, vengeful overshoot very quickly spirals into barking madness.
Washington Consensus: a system of economic management promoted by multilateral development agencies such as the IMF and World Bank. The WC consists of a series of objectives, such as "liberalized" (market-driven) interest rates, fiscal discipline, and a competitive exchange rate, as well as pro-business state policies. The elements affecting interest rates, fiscal discipline, and exchange rates are mutually exclusive; it is not possible for an economy that lacks one or more of these things to achieve all three without some intermediate phase of not having any of them. In other words, if a country suffers inflation, then it must manage the interest rates and exchange rates; it cannot allow a laissez-faire policy to persist in either. This is precisely what the WC requires. Since conformity to the WC is impossible, development specialists have a ready alibi for any failure of countries under their supervision. See globalization.