Monday, February 23, 2009

LOT, LOTTO, AND CASINO CAPITALISM--and the future of Federalism


By Kevin Stoda in Germany

What does the Biblical character Lot have to do with casino capitalism today? Is it more than a coincidence that Lot sounds like the word Lotto? The world needs solutions tested in time but new for this millenium in many ways. Where do we begin? How about the World Federalist movement?


What does the life of a Genesis character named Lot have to teach us today? I.e. in the midst of the world’s greatest financial crisis in over 6 decades?

A Scottish minister recently retold his audience the story of Lot, a minor character in Genesis. This distant ancestor of Adam Smith related this biblical footnote in a new way –that is, in a way which really hits home to us (1) victims of the international gambling industry and to us (2) victims of 4 decades of global financial malfeasance.

This particular Scottish minister pointed out that the supposedly minor character, Lot--with all his human frailties and occasional financial, spiritual, and political misfortune—resembles many of us smaller and larger investors and gamblers around the globe today.

First, the preacher noted that in Genesis 11 and 12, we find that Lot is born well-to-do fairly and is born a nephew in Abraham’s ever-growing family.. Lot is soon treated as an orphaned nephew of Abraham after the death of both his elders.

At first, financially Lot does well with his inheritance and works diligently raising a great number of lambs. Lot, along with his Uncle Abraham, eventually manages to build up a tremendous herd of sheep.

Alas, these two shepherds both become so successful that there develops an over-competitiveness. This competiveness was mirrored in their laborers who seemed to be at each others throats.

Soon, in order to stop fights from breaking out amongst Lot’s and Abraham’s shepherds, the two men chose to split their herds and go in separate ways.

This separation amongst the members of Abrahamic family business is reported in Genesis 13, whereby it is also noted that Lot had apparently chosen to take over the easier to graze and wide-open green pastureland of the valleys, where Sodom and Gomorrah were the main cities. This left the aging Abraham to try his hand at grazing the sheep in the difficult hill country to the west and to the north.

In the Scottish minister’s retelling of this Genesis tale, it was noted that at first Lot appears to have been a shrewd herder of his sheep. Moreover, Lot apparently had already gotten wind of what kind of businesses were being run in the two infamous cities, Sodom and Gomorrah.

Therefore, Lot camped away from these towns and often initially sought to bypass them in his regular journeys across the plains of the Jordan Valley. However, over time the businesses and lifestyle of those in Sodom and Gomorrah began to attract the businessman Lot.

Later, in Genesis 14 we find that when Lot was camping particularly close to the city of Sodom, Lot, his family, animals, and his tribesman were attacked and kidnapped.

At this point Abraham rescued Lot and his family’s resources in a small war with the kings of Shinar, Goiim, and Kedorlaomar. It is reported in Genesis 14 that Lot received all of his property, women and children back as Abraham saved him from his captors.


Despite this unfortunate kidnapping, Lot continued to be attracted again to the lives and businesses—as well as to the lights of Sodom and Gomorrah.

Immediately as a gambler I saw the connection of the pull that these two cities had on a formerly sound working rancher and businessman. Much as we gamblers are attracted to and addicted to betting and casinos, or to fancy financial instruments, and to easy money investment schemes—Lot appears to have become once again entranced by the glittering and sinful life of the city of Sodom and Gomorrah.

This is certainly why in the following chapters of Genesis, we see that Lot has apparently lost much of his property in and around the wicked cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. There is no longer any mention of his herds at all. He is now living and serving on government seats and on boards of directors of the going-ons at Sodom City.

Did Lot sell all his sheep and simply move into these cities to live or did he actually again lose his wealth—i.e. this time possibly losing his property through gambling, graft or poor financial investments?

Perhaps someone in Sodom had indicated that Lot no linger needed to produce “actual somethings”, like herds of new born sheep, in order to make wealth.

Perhaps Lot fell for one of those housing or savings and building scams which have recently brought people all over the world to lose their retirement savings and investments--from the shores of Dubai to Las Vegas or Reno to Atlantic City or from Monte Carlo to New York or London, Spain, Italy, or Florida?????

Think about it, besides sex, there were Time-Shares sales and property Development schemes galore—such as snow-ball, pyramid or pansy schemes!!!

Anyway, although Lot is still a respected man in the city of Sodom, e.g. he is often found sitting on the governing panel and on the board of directors of a few businesses at the gate of the city, by Genesis 19 Lot apparently has little financial substance or properety on the night when two angles from heaven show up in Sodom in order to see if they can find any other right-living folks around.

Despite the precariousness of Lot’s situation, the two angles practically had to drag Lot, his daughters and wife out of the city. Like us investors (and government oversight figures) of the last two or three decades, Lot was unwilling to see the truth, i.e. his world was about to collapse

Finally, despite having lost just about everything of worth to him, Lot demands to stay living in a small village not far from where the disasters of nature and heaven have befallen the now-long-gone cities of Sodom and Gomorrah.

This is not unlike the neo-cons and conservatives who still think the world described by Adam Smith, Ronald Reagan and Milton Friedman built into our heads decades ago concerning the magical self-fixing hand of the free market economy.

Are we losers, i.e. losers of the biggest financial boondoggles of history, going to continue to live the way we were trying to living before we entered this crisis full speed—a few years back???

Or, are we going to change and do a damned lot better in developing our planet’s human and physical resources in a more socially just and nature-supportive economy?

On the other hand, are we, like Lot, sit across the way and stare in mourning at the embers of the international financial system’ simmering and simply dream of what might have been?

I hope not!!!


Here in Germany, not a day seems to go by that one political party (or another) calls the financial and investment system the world has built up-to-date by the name of “Casino Capitalism”.|lang_de

The parties of the left, center, and even the right seem to agree in this.

“The world system is fairly broken”, they say, and it will take a globally managed program to reform and rebuild the lack of trust destroyed in this decade. The international community needs the management and oversight at a global level—to a degree that it has never known before.

Among the internationally well-coordinated policies needed are (1) those that are pro-poor and (2) those that eliminate subsidies to Green House Gas producers.

The poor need to participate more democratically to balance out the development in the system which has swung only into the mismanaging arms of the wealthy and their wealthy financiers.

One of the G8 summiteers reported this past week, “Indeed, continuing to pour trillions of dollars into carbon-based infrastructure and fossil-fuel subsidies would be like investing in sub-prime real estate all over again.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany has warned that a united global policy of stimuli is needed to stop the economies globally falling into the protectionist beggar-thy-neighbor policies that brought out the great worldwide depression of the 1930s.


CASINO CAPITALISM was the name of a Susan Strange book printed in the early 1970s after the USA went off the gold standard. (It is currently out-of-stock on Amazon but odds are out that several reprints are coming out very soon.) It has fairly well described the capitalist world since Nixon was U.S. president.

Strange wrote regularly for the Observer and The Economist for decades. In one review of the book, it is noted: “The ‘casino’ in the title refers not to the role of speculation and gambling in world finance, but to the fact that, for the first time in history, global markets were open twenty-four hours a day.”

In the capitalist world described by Strange, “Th[e] conception of finance as an autonomous sphere of economic activity was presented alongside the argument that no economic system--industrial, financial, agricultural--could function without the active role of the state. Her theoretical aspiration was to echo the pioneering work of Adam Smith, David Ricardo and Karl Marx in bringing together the study of politics and the state with that of the economy and markets. The policy injunction that followed was that the modern state had to promote and protect markets, just as it did (for example) security of travel and transport, the stability of currencies, the promotion of education and scientific research, and other often unacknowledged but essential supports.”

From the very beginning of history, cities have offered the rural investor or entrepreneur, like Lot, an opportunity (or illusion) to find a better way of trying to accumulating resources and building a life both (1) different from and possibly (2) more full of leisure than the lives his father, grandfather and ancestors have ever dreamed of.

Since the 1970s, cities from Hong Kong to New York to London (and all-around the globe) have served as breadbaskets for investors looking for that-better-day or that-better-way to improve one’s lot in life.

However, just as the 24 hour investor network was going into place during the second half of the 20th Century, the governments from London to the USA to China threw their hats into a ring and pretended that markets had always righted themselves efficiently and had kept life and society in order.

These blind leaders attempted to ignore history and the great theories of Marx, Ricardo, Keynes, Strange, and others.

WILL AMERICA finally throw in its LOT with OTHERS & DO BETTER?

There is already a lot of talk concerning what kind of new financial & international development system of finances and investments (by individuals, investor groups, and states) should look like.

Click on this link to find out what just some on the New Left think:

This newly-developing regime assumes that neo-liberalism--as has existed over the past 60 years --has now seen its day in the sun and a new order is essential.

Stronger than at any time since Bretton Woods, there is a growing call that there will be for the long-term a growing role for the states and state-groups (such as the European Union) in the newly-forming-financial-economic regime is certainly

This call for a shift in how “the system” is built up and run is “propelled by a wholesale loss of confidence in the Anglo-American model of transactions-oriented capitalism and the neoliberal economics that legitimized it (and by the U.S.’s loss of moral authority, now at rock bottom in much of the world). Governmental responses to the crisis further suggest that we have entered the second leg of Polanyi’s ‘double movement’, the recurrent pattern in capitalism whereby (to oversimplify) a regime of free markets and increasing commodification generates such suffering and displacement as to prompt attempts to impose closer regulation of markets and de-commodification (hence ‘embedded liberalism’).”

This ongoing transformation is already even being measured by some economists in terms of transaction costs.

If only a system of actually counting-of-costs had actually been in place or been properly developed and in-use by the majority of nations over the past few decades, this so-called ( & mindless) free market capitalism would not have been allowed to get out of control under bad financial leadership and bad development principles.

Anyone with a basic understanding of political-economic history was able to predict what an absolute loser the 1960’s to 2008 model was for all on planet earth within a few short years.

But these same error-filled leadership brains had already bought out American media firms and ran the wars our countries fight.

CRISIS might be GOOD--or are we going to continue to Play Lotto?

The currently powerless majorities of each nation state need to stand up and stop the casino.

Moreover, we need more of a say in our individual and global development.

One option would be to have the peoples and nations join in a more cooperative civilization orientation, such as the model provided by democratic world federalist movements.

For example, “The World Federalist Movement is an international citizen's movement working for justice, peace, and sustainable prosperity. We call for an end to the rule of force, through a world governed by law, based on strengthened and democratized world institutions. World federalists support the creation of democratic global structures accountable to the citizens of the world and call for the division of international authority among separate agencies.”

This movement calls for drastic reformation of the United Nations.

The World Federalist Movement arose first in the 1930s to provide an alternative to the fallen League of Nations and a response to bad capitalism practices and the rise of fascist ideologies. However, it has never been interested in communism or any other autocratic form of governance nor development.

The World Federalist Movement later was founded again after WWII and the United Nations had already begun to build an unjust post-war world.

Federalism is a concept older than democracies and dates back to the time of Lot, when tribes protected one another whom they treated as family members while trying to keep law and order in a chaotic world.

For example, Abraham’s many attempts to take care of and support his nephew Lot were and example of the sort of tribes which would soon be found throughout the Middle East.

On the other hand, modern federalism is much more peace-oriented than was tribal federalism of Lot and Abraham’s days. For example, the current federal Europe Union is a relatively peaceful entity—spanning 30 countries who used to often be at each other’s throats.

Any financial regime in this millennium needs to have as much political commitment as the EU movement has shown towards peace and development. On the other hand, the EU has only barely touched upon working together with African, Asian and American nations to build a better planet.

This is why A world federalist regime is needed to oversee the economic system and to develop cooperatively regions of the world—already under siege by global warming and bad developmental debt earned over recent decades.



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