Category: Uncategorized

Is Ecosocialism the Antidote to Black Friday?

An Interview with Victor Wallis on WHOWHATWHY

Progressive politicians from Bernie Sanders to new Congressmember Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have grown increasingly bold in calling for quasi-socialist solutions as the only viable means of addressing a range of intractable, growing problems —  from the health care crisis to climate change.

Others are even more explicit, arguing that capitalism itself is at the root of the matter.

Victor Wallis, a history professor at Berklee School of Music and longtime writer and thinker on the environment, this week’s guest on the WhoWhatWhy podcast, believes that “ecosocialism” is the only answer to the existential dilemma facing America and the world.

Wallis argues that, whether one is passionate about capitalism or is troubled by its extreme manifestations no longer matters. The imperative for ever greater profits, he says, creates more of everything and more demand for everything — and inevitably produces strains the earth can no longer afford.

Maybe not what you want to hear as you contemplate yet another Black Friday spree. But maybe also a good time to hear and debate unconventional ideas.

Listen to the interview or read the transcript on WhoWhatWhy

Victor Wallis is the author of Red-Green Revolution: The Politics and Technology of Ecosocialism.

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Battle of Ideas

This is your invitation to enter the fray. To attack or defend ideas that matter.

Political Animal Magazine is running a contest for short op-ed style articles that look at politics in terms of the ideas that underlie them.

We are looking for articles that take a philosophic argument or claim, explain why it matters to politics today, and make a case why it is right or wrong. Winning submissions will clearly and compellingly articulate the meaning and merit of the ideas in question. Pieces should be no more than 2000 words, written in an op-ed or blog style that is accessible to intelligent general readers, and highlight the role of ideas in politics.

Theme: Net Neutrality

The theme of the contest is Net Neutrality. On December 14 2017, the FCC is scheduled to vote on repeal of the net neutrality rules put into place by the Obama administration.

We want articles that explore the deeper theoretical implications of the issue. Examples of questions might be: Is net neutrality a challenge to the free market? Is the internet a public good, on the terms articulated by economists such as Paul Samuelson and James M. Buchanan? Does the internet protect our liberties with the access it provides, or compromise them, by restricting the sorts of exchanges we can engage in, and what role should government have in shaping its future?


The two submissions judged best will each receive an award of $50. We will publish all submissions of note, including crosslinks to any other sites on which the pieces appear, should you request this.


The deadline for submissions is Jan 30, 2017. Submissions should be sent to, with the email subject “Contest”.

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Rethinking the Goals of Finance, Cont’d

Some Letters to the Editor

The article Rethinking the Goals of Finance: Lessons from the Amherst Arbitrage proved controversial. Below are a couple emailed responses Political Animal recieved on the topic:

Dangerous Derivatives?

I particularly enjoyed the case example of Amherst Holdings versus the banks. Indeed, the use of financial derivatives was a superbly brilliant strategy by Amherst to protect itself against financial loss and importantly provided a social good to the community whereby none of the homeowners lost their houses.

That said, this essay should have ended in the second paragraph with the authors’ assertion that “there is nothing inherently problematic with finance……financial practices are troubling because of their execution, not because finance is itself problematic.”  As with many things in life, including finance, poor execution can typically lead to unfortunate and unintended outcomes. For example, owning a car is considered a valuable and useful asset, but poor execution (reckless driving) may very well lead to catastrophic consequences.

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Merry Foolstide!

In honor of the season, Political Animal Magazine would like to remind you that the same Puritans who gave us Thanksgiving also outlawed Christmas, which they called Foolstide, in 1659.

Men dishonor Christ more in the 12 days of Christmas, than in all the 12 months besides.

Hugh Latimer

Our current “War on Christmas” pales in comparison.

Happy Holidays!

Diogenes on Current Affairs

It is folly to lament the passing of a man who made a career out of writing beautiful lamentations for his own eventual passing.
Diogenes, regarding the death of Leonard Cohen

In death, as in life, may he lead his people as first among equals, and so may his funeral surpass in squalor those of the many poor dead of his nation.”
Diogenes, regarding the death of Fidel Castro

Diogenes the Cynic spent most of his life challenging the social, political, and philosophic views of Ancient Greece, often residing in a barrel in the marketplace. Long thought to have been torn apart by a pack of wild dogs outside the walls of Corinth in 323 BCE, he had in fact fallen asleep in a pool of molten amber. Now, thanks to the miracle of modern science, he has been extracted, restored, and returned to us. Diogenes is busy catching up on both the contemporary scene as well as the last 2300 years of historical development. He occasionally sends us these notes from a cardboard box that he is living in, somewhere in the nation’s capital.

Muhammad Ali and the Spirit of the Sixties

By: Stefan Schindler

Muhammad Ali died on June 3rd, 2016, at the age of 74.  Unsurprisingly, the media has been flooded with articles celebrating history’s most famous boxing champion.  But Muhammad Ali was more than just king of the ring.  He was a political figure with enormous influence.  Too many people today, perhaps especially young people, are unaware of this important fact.  It is a fact worth recalling.  The social conflicts informing the revolutionary turbulence of the 1960s are still with us, and in some ways are more extreme now than they were then.

It is appropriate, therefore, to take another look at Ali’s life, and to note the inextricable intertwine of his boxing fame and his political impact.  Mike Marqusee’s book on Ali – Redemption Song: Muhammad Ali and The Spirit of The Sixties (Verso; 1999) – acts as an excellent guide.  It reminds us that we still have a long way to go in achieving social justice, and that the socio-political battles of the Sixties are far from over.  Marqusee’s opening paragraph is astute and provocative:

“A strange fate befell Muhammad Ali in the 1990s.  The man who had defied the American establishment was taken into its bosom.  There he was lavished with an affection which had been strikingly absent thirty years before, when for several years he reigned unchallenged as the most reviled figure in the history of American sports.”

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What Fascism Is Not, What It Is, and Why It Matters

Howl of the Day: May 31, 2016

Fascism, as a term, has become almost synonymous with injustice. And this common view of fascism is a good place to begin understanding the phenomenon. Once the term is scrutinized just a bit, however, fascism becomes a more difficult thing to understand. This is despite the fact (and to certain extent, because of the fact) that the media is saturated with loud speeches and vivid images on the subject.

Fascism is so familiar to us as a shorthand for injustice that it is hard to see beyond that surface impression. But fascism cannot simply be the same as injustice. However objectionable it is, there are surely other political ills.

For example, the use of force to implement political policies is often referred to as fascistic. The same with political commonplaces, such as declarations of war and the existence of inequity. But force is employed in every type of regime, both good and bad, and inequities of some kind are ubiquitous. Without recourse to some standard of justice, there is no way to distinguish fascism from liberalism, or tyranny from democracy.

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Sullivan, Trump, and Tyranny in America

Howl of the Day: May 3, 2016

Veteran political commentator and online media all-star, Andrew Sullivan, emerged from semi-retirement yesterday, firing broadsides. In an article for New York Magazine, Sullivan mounted an impassioned defense of elitism in America, arguing that the ever-greater democratization of American society and politics has made the nation ripe for tyranny.

Beginning with a reading of Plato and culminating in an assault on Trump, Sullivan warns against the rise of populist anti-establishment politics. To him, Trump is a demagogue, a tyrant-in-waiting of the type that Plato identified as particularly likely to emerge in excessively democratic regimes.

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