Wednesday, January 25, 2012

murmuration



Kunstler | On last week's podcast, Duncan and I yakked about an important concept introduced by Nicole Foss at The Automatic Earth blog site. This concept was "the trust horizon," which outlines how legitimacy is lost in the political hierarchy. That is, people stop trusting larger institutions like the federal or state government and end up vesting their interests much closer to home. Thus, life de-centralizes and becomes more local by necessity. Your own trust horizon extends only as far as other persons, businesses, institutions, and authorities immediately around you - the banker who will meet with you face-to-face, the mayor of your small town, the local food-growers. At the same time, distant ones become impotent and ludicrous - or possibly dangerous as they flounder to re-assert their vanishing influence.

It is obvious that we are in the early stages of this process in the USA (and Europe), as giant institutions such as the Federal Reserve, the Executive branch under Mr. Obama, the US Congress (the ECB), the SEC, the Department of Justice, the Treasury Department, and other engines of management all fail in one way or another to discharge their obligations.

The people of the USA, having been let down and swindled in so many ways by the people they placed their trust in, and even freely elected, appear to be in a daze of injury. Maybe this accounts for the obsession with zombies and persons drained of blood - who yet seem to carry on normal lives (at least in TV shows). This odd condition is best defined by the familiar cry from non-zombies: "where's the outrage?" Which brings me to today's point.

Investment guru James Dines introduced another seminal idea on Eric King's podcast last week. Dines's work over the years has focused much more on human mob psychology than technical market analysis - which he seems to regard as akin to augury with chicken entrails. Dines now introduces the term "murmuration" to describe the way that rapid changes occur in the realm of human activities. The word refers to behaviors also seen in other living species, such as the way a large flock of starlings will all turn in the sky at the same instant without any apparent communication. We don't know how they do that. It seems to be some kind of collective cognitive processing beyond our understanding.

Dines goes on to suggest that the political stirrings and upheavals of the past year represent an instance of human "murmuration" that will lead to even greater epochal changes in geopolitical and economic life. Now, I've often said 1) history doesn't repeat, but it rhymes [thank you, Mark Twain], and 2) that these times are like the 1850s. To be more precise today, these two concepts of "the trust horizon" and "murmuration" point to a moment in time that I believe we are now rhyming with: the revolutions of 1848 and the events that grew out of it.

3 comments:

nanakwame said...

"Investment guru James Dines" - the paradoxes of language and meaning, love it.

umbrarchist said...

If double-entry accounting is 700 years old and easy to comprehend but no one in your entire life told you that you should understand it then how far should your trust horizon be?

Everybody has been lied to.  The entire structure is built on lies.

DD said...

I hate that Mark Twain quote--because he didn't say it. There are numerous iterations out there but no definitive quote. Repeat something enough and it's true however.

http://volokh.com/archives/archive_2005_02_13-2005_02_19.shtml#1108756279

Here's an actual Twain quote: "It is not worth while to try to keep history from repeating itself, for
man's character will always make the preventing of the repetitions
impossible."

Not as catchy but it gets the job done.

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