Impacts of mobile capital's 'convenient reverse logic'

Jocelyn Pixley

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John Kenneth Galbraith often warned 1980s students graduating in the social sciences that they’d find the opposite thought processes on leaving university. Logic taught them that social ills of poverty or unemployment must have causes, such as monetary policy that raises the jobless rates (Galbraith suggested). Fairer remedies were easily at hand. But ‘Convenient Reverse Logic’ proceeds not ‘from diagnosis to remedy’ such as increasing minimum wages and decent jobs, or providing competent social services. No, it starts at ‘the preferred remedy back to the requisite cause’. That remedy should not ‘involve a painful transfer of resources from the affluent’. To the wealthy, a ‘cause of poverty is because the poor lack motivation… [as] they are already unduly rewarded… whereas the rich have not been working because they have too little’. Thus, President Reagan reduced taxes on the affluent, ‘to enliven the economy’ (Galbraith 1986: 35-8) and the situation became more enfeebled, disruptive and mean. Galbraith’s wit was disarming, except to apologists for ruling classes, urging greater poverty, more regressive taxes and bleak working lives. Since no justifications for this decades-long state of affairs exist logically or morally, today, august newspapers of record tend to hire journalists who can write with charm and logic, not jargon and mendacious statistics, instead, well-informed, plain talk. Galbraith and C. Wright Mills (1953) both saw Thorstein Veblen as ‘the only comic writer’ in the social sciences. Mills remarked that Veblen rigorously used the wildly acclaimed ‘efficiency’ to taunt American financiers: their ‘insatiable straining for invidious distinctions’ and for domination over rivals fighting to inflict or endure the most ‘pecuniary damage’ created inefficiency. Ownership was primary: Veblen analyzed the layers built on the earliest property right to own women (of ‘husbands’ and to sexual exploitation), to slaves, land and, by his day, ‘capital as investment’ in stock, absentee ownership, not as productive-creative capacities: a ‘right’ of sheer force. Perhaps this subsided after Veblen, in more democratic times. Yet, hopes for equality, efficiency and professionalism of postwar mixed economies seemed dashed as business-financiers, the exclusive disrupters (in sackings, mergers: Veblen 1904; Galbraith 1986), became costlier and arrogant because a growing majority was poorer and disrespected.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCritical junctures in mobile capital
EditorsJocelyn Pixley, Helena Flam
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press (CUP)
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781316995327
ISBN (Print)9781107189515, 9781316639146
Publication statusPublished - 2018


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