Today’s New York Times Arts section has an article on repugnance, titled Economists Dissect the ‘Yuck’ Factor. Yuck is my ThemeWord for 2024, so — although I find conservative economics repulsive and offensive in the extreme — I was drawn to the article.

[Alvin] Roth spoke at a recent panel on the economics of repugnance at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research organization in Washington. For conservatives the issue can be particularly pointed. Economic conservatives tend to favor eliminating as many hindrances on the market as possible, while social conservatives believe some practices are so “repugnant” — because they violate traditional values or religious and moral prohibitions — that they should be banned from the marketplace altogether.

I have an almost childish fascination with the horrible, the vile, the disgusting. One finds a certain cloying sweetness in the mercantilist maunderings at the Hayek informed conservative think tanks, almost like eating an overripe banana. There is something seductive about Herr Professor Hayek’s rank and rotting, dark and filthy subornation of human values with his bizarre monetary tokenism. It’s like smelling a particularly ripe cheese. One salivates, but then one may also vomit. There is something deeply ironic about Hayek’s appointment as Professor of Social and Moral Science at the University of Chicago, his membership (with Leo Strauss) on the Committee on Social Thought.

“Polite society” doesn’t often provide moments for biting into that black banana, for sampling that Austrian cheese. When Americans buy little girl babies in China, we usually turn our head, make of it something positive, humanitarian. Perhaps it is. When the wretched twenty percent of christian Americans who actually are leading the retreat to serfdom express their repugnance over same sex marriage or stem cell research, it is outfits like the American Enterprise Institute that legitimize their eccentricities by agreeing that indeed there is an odor about these matters that many find repellent. So on the one hand, people are willing to endure a whiff of the yucky if money can be used to transmute the yuckiness — whether it’s buying a Chinese baby or paying a donor for his/her sperm or egg — while moral incorruptibility rules when it comes to suppressing gay marriage or the extension of knowledge through stem cell research. (It doesn’t take an economist to understand that the barriers to stem cell research will fall to profitability long before the barriers to gay marriage, because who can make a buck from that?)

It has been suggested that we eschew yuckiness, that we find our happy place and go there when we smell the stench from charnel houses of unexamined capitalism. “Polite society” agrees about what is yucky and what is not. One of the most important community values in almost any community dictates that you go along to get along. Paul Bloom, at that same American Enterprise Institute convocation on yuckiness, observed this about athletes’ steroid use:

He conducted a two-year study to try to get at why people consider athletes who take steroids to be cheating, but not those who take vitamins or use personal trainers. He and his team offered different possibilities: What if steroids were completely natural? Or were not at all harmful? Or were only effective if the athlete had to work harder than before?

The only change that caused the interviewed subjects to alter their objections to steroids was when they were told that everyone else thought it was all right. “People have moral intuitions,” Mr. Bloom said. When it comes to accepting or changing the status quo in these situations, he said, they tended to “defer to experts or the community.”

Well, yucky or repugnant as I find the manipulation of community values for power and profit to be, there is something funny about it all. Paul Bloom went on to say,

[Economists] assume that “everything is subject to market pricing unless proven otherwise. The problem is not that economists are unreasonable people, it’s that they’re evil people. They work in a different moral universe.”

I imagine the gathered economists got a few yucks out of that.


a fiction, a fictive foto, a fanciful design said to have been the greatest corporate nazi killer of them all…

Ben is lowered from the ceiling. After a moment of being alone, various office
“products” begin to be lowered from the ceiling and set in place in Ben’s office
cubicle. As each product is lowered, it is possible that a face is reflected on the
product as a “chorus.” “Parallel Text A” offers text for the chorus, but other
products could be included in the décor without texts. The products continue to
descend as Ben goes through his monologue. After the cubicle is completely decorated,
a mirror could be implemented to make the cubicle appear as one of

Hi, my name is Ben! I’m calling from PEOPLES WIRELESS. Is Rebecca
Smith home? How you doing Rebecca? Are you satisfied with your cellular
phone service?

Horses: who will do it? out of manes? Words
Will do it, out of manes, out of airs, but
They have no manes, so there are no airs, birds
Of words, from me to them no singing gut.
For they have no eyes, for their legs are wood,
For their stomachs are logs with print on them;
Blood red, red lamps hang from necks or where could
Be necks, two legs stand A, four together M.
“Street Closed” is what print says on their stomachs;
That cuts out everybody but the diggers;
You’re cut out, and she’s cut out, and the jiggers
Are cut out. No! we can’t have such nor bucks
As won’t, tho they’re not here, pass thru a hoop
Strayed on a manhole — me? Am on a stoop.

Because if you don’t have a teacher, how have you created, what I called the
field of knowledge. But having worked with Winnicott’s ideas, I then went on to
Lacan’s ideas using discourse theory. And realised that what I was trying to talk
about was the fact that the teacher has to embody the object a. In other words
they have to embody a bit of existence that is missing to provoke the student’s
desire, without alienating them. So, in other words, we don’t want a Master
discourse. If the teacher is present, in the normal expected sense that we have in
schools and in Universities, then that is automatically a Master discourse if they
start to teach in traditional ways. But if they reject that teaching…

39.1 Horses: in the first instance the poet is referring in this poem to sawhorses, which are being used to mark off a section of a street under repair; therefore they have “Street Closed” printed on their “stomachs” (39.9). Scroggins suggests (359) that a probable source for the subject of this poem was Guillaume Apollinaire’s poem “Chevaux de Frise” (Friesland horses) from Calligrammes (1918), in which the poet verbally transforms bared wire covered wooden frames, called Friesland horses, into actual horses. Apollinaire’s poem is mentioned in the work LZ wrote with René Taupin, Le Style Apollinaire (1934), quoting the lines: “Non chevaux barbes mais barbelés / Et je les anime tout soudain” (Not Barbary horses but barded wire / And I give them sudden life) (238-239). Also see numerous references to horses throughout “A”, as indicated in the index.

39.1 manes: horse manes, but manes were also spirits of the dead in ancient Rome.

39.2 airs: in Renaissance usage an accompanied song; also breath or to make out of air.

39.4 singing gut: instrument strings, often made out of animal gut, catgut.

39.8 two legs stand A, four together M: shape of sawhorses seen from end view. Kenner points out (“Of Notes and Horses,” in Terrell 190) that AM suggests God’s response to Moses concerning his name: “I AM THAT I AM” (Exodus 3:16; see 12.163.24). This in turn might invoke Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s definition of the primary imagination: “the living power and prime agent of all human perception, and as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM” (Biographia Literaria, Chap. 13).

39.11 jiggers / Are cut out: (1) jig = a lively dance or the music for such a dance; joke or trick; apparatus for cleaning or separating crushed ore by agitation in water; device for guiding a tool or for holding machine work in place; (2) jigger = a person who jigs or operates a jig; a small measure for liquor or this amount of liquor; device, such as a drill, that operates with a jerking or jolting motion (AHD). Ahearn adds that jigger is also slang for streetcars (62). In letters to LZ, Lorine Niedecker used “jiggers” as an exclamation: e.g. “[…] so when you write ‘Regards to Glover’—jiggers, there’s my title” (Pemberthy 147).

39.12 bucks: dollars; robust or high-spirited young man; act of bucking; sawhorse (AHD).

Encouraged by this interest, Niedecker started writing again. She had previously earned her living scrubbing hospital floors, “reading proof” at a local magazine, and renting cottages, and had lived at the edge of poverty for years.

Key Endorsement

If you have Hulk Hogan on your side, who else do you really need?

A French Lesson

[tags]le electile disfunction, @loic votre nombre s’il vous plait, quelque chose la reindeer, book contract a la congo belgique, thinking fontly auf dich[/tags]

1967 was a very good year

Didn’t see the Young Rascals on JP’s 1967 top fifty albums list. I could skip a few of the artists he has listed (Herman’s Hermits?) but I have to say the people below were in my top fifty that year, probably my top ten.

…and Wilson Pickett…

…and Marvin Gaye, Aretha, Smokey, Gladys… hard for me to separate 1965, 1966, 1nd 1967, but…


Everyone’s worried about stopping terrorism. Well, there’s a really easy way: Stop participating in it.”
Jan Erasmus quoting Noam Chomsky at Jonathan Barnbrook’s Day of Forgetting blog

We can always count on RB to pull something interesting, brilliant and beautiful out of the internets.

Climate Frog

Last summer Jon Lebkowsky interviewed Cliff Figallo, author of Climate Frog, at WorldChanging. It was a two part interview. Part one is here. It brings focus to Cliff’s lengthy experience in intentional communities, from The Farm to The WELL.

Part two is here. It focuses on “…climate change, denial, and the possibility of mitigation and adaptation.” Regarding denial, Figallo refers to a letter in Newsweek which I had a hard enough time finding that I reproduce it here in its entirety:

Kaneohe, Hawaii

Sharon Begley’s article about “The Denial Machine,” as frightening as it was, misses a crucial aspect of the problem. It is not just that well-heeled corporations are buying up politicians or promoting science-as-they-want-it-to-be. It is that our society is more than happy to accept spin and cant because we have come to believe that all expertise is bias, that all knowledge is opinion, that every judgment is relative. I see this daily in my university classroom. Many of even my best students seem to have lost the ability to think critically about the world. They do not believe in the transformative power of knowledge because they do not believe in knowledge itself. Begley decries the tactic of making the scientists appear divided, but the corporations didn’t have to invent this tactic. It is built into our carefully balanced political “debates,” into our news shows with equal time given to pundits from each side and into the “fairness” we try to teach in our schools. We need not be surprised that people have become consumers who demand the right to choose as they wish between the two equally questionable sides of every story. Neither global warming nor any other serious problem can be addressed by a society that equates willful ignorance with freedom of thought.

Bernard Dov Cooperman
Dept. of History, University of Maryland

Cliff Figallo believes in the power of networked communications and particularly blogging to help get the word out on this most crucial problem that faces us all. His blog, Climate Frog, collects reports of local climate change impacts and responses from around the world. What have you done to reduce your carbon emissions today?

[tags]jon lebkowsky, cliff figallo, climate frog[/tags]