Rob Larson, author of Bleakonomics (Pluto, 2012) has returned, spiritually speaking (over a telephone wire) to his old stomping grounds of the University of Missouri, Kansas City, for an interview on the Heartland Labor Forum KKFI Radio Station.
It’s a great interview, in which they discuss Rob’s book. The audio is available here – go to about 30 minutes in. For those of you with a clicking aversion, we’ve painstakingly transcribed a few of the Q and As. Enjoy!
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Heartland Labor Forum, KKFI: Wow, what have I got to say; in this book you cover every current topic that I think of that could possibly be up for debate: Destruction of the oceans, crony capitalism, dirty oil, the benefits of smog, plutocracy papers, poison water, hypoxia, weapons of mass deception, union busting, neoliberalism, GMOs, HMOs, class warfare, off-shoring, outsourcing, heavy-handing, corruption, nepotism, kleptocracy, media monopoly, disinformation, pyramid schemes, QE1, QE2, QE3, too big to fail, too little money and respect for the 99% of us… Rob, what got you looking into all the facets of our current global financial system and its myriad of externalities?
Rob Larson: Well thanks man, I consider it a good book value: you get a lot of subjects. Yeah I…actually came up in the hard sciences; my undergraduate work was in biology and picked up a UN report one day on chronic hunger. And it turns out the countries that have malnutrition and famine, they vary but very often they’re net food exporters. They tend to shift more food commodities out of the country than are imported or received through aid, and it turns out it’s because farmers and landowners realise that they can make a far better return on their real estate if they produce tropical fruits and nuts and berries for American and European yuppies to buy than if they produce staple grains for the local poor people. So it turns out it was more of an economic issue than a science one, so I got into economics in that way.
KKFI: Early on here’s a part that you wrote that got me:
“research on gene therapy to fight cancer is naturally taken seriously since it’s of great value, most especially to those with money and power, yet scientific concern about environmental consequences of our lucrative energy system must be an unholy scientific conspiracy to strangle economic growth. All long as scientific research is coming up with baldness cures and sex performance drugs for obese Americans then no problem, but telling us to rationally invest in new energy forms is sure to be a hoax.”
Hey, you say it like it is throughout the whole book. Now, do you think most people are aware of the interconnectedness of our society’s problems?
RL: Uh, I don’t know about that. That’s a tough question. My impression…tends to be that folks just feel like there are a million different problems that you constantly hear about. There’s always bad news in the paper about this subject or this different subject. It think some folks see the centre, and if you’ve had a decent education then you may have a slightly better chance… some folks have the common sense to figure it out. But I think like a lot of folks feel like there’s just a million bad things going on and they might end up believing it’s the end times, rather than that we have an economic system problem.
KKFI: Yeah, you know I’ve gotta say for our listeners out there, this is a great book. Pluto Press, Rob Larson, Bleakonomics….You know, I love how in each of the topics, you get cynically sarcastic and humorously truthful – and then scary – but in a short amount of time you bring up some of these incredibly important points, and I don’t want to get into all of them, but I wrote down some of my favourite chapters, and feel free to comment: ” The invisible hand gives the finger”…
RL: That one deals a little bit more with financial markets, and how people tend not to be quite aware how this worked out, but we had fairly significant deregulation of our financial services markets…and once that took place over the ’80s and ’90s suddenly now we have a giant economic bubble and crisis every decade more or less. Well that’s a pretty rude comeuppance from a free deregulated market kinda giving us the finger in that way!
A Heartwarming Introduction to Financial Catastrophe, the Jobs Crisis and Environmental Destruction
Short and darkly humorous guide to the three great crises plaguing today’s world: climate change, inequality and financial crisis.
“I have been reading Rob Larson’s columns for some time, with great profit and appreciation. His work is not only solidly grounded but also lucid and accessible, a most valuable contribution to public understanding and vitally needed action.” – Noam Chomsky
“Larson adds a critical component to the policy debate about financial reform by explaining why the systemically dangerous institutions (SDIs) — the “too big to fail” banks — imperil our democracy as well as our economy. They are ticking time bombs certain to cause great damage unless we follow Larson’s advice.” – William Black, Associate Professor of Economics and Law, University of Missouri-Kansas City, author of The Best Way to Rob a Bank is to Own One