The late great Michael Hudson!!!

10 Jun

I’m both delighted and embarrassed – more the former – to discover that my news earlier today of economist Michael Hudson’s death was greatly exaggerated.

A comment by bevin, below, showed me that I had the wrong Michael Hudson; a political scientist and Arab scholar with the middle name, Craig. This explains – duh! – why I found no other reference to the death in sources I’d have expected to find it.

Red of face but happy, I’m leaving the post up: as a tribute to the man still living, and to my unseemly haste. Other than the small matter of my Michael Hudson – as luck would have it, also eighty-two – still drawing breath, I stand by my words.

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With sadness I learned today1 of the death two weeks ago, aged eighty-two, of the man Paul Craig Roberts – a Reagan appointee at the US Treasury but now among the growing ranks of former establishment figures turned empire critics – called “our greatest living economist”.

For its part wiki says this:

Michael Hudson is a Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri–Kansas City and a researcher at the Levy Economics Institute at Bard College, former Wall Street analyst, political consultant, commentator and journalist. He is a contributor to The Hudson Report, a weekly economic and financial news podcast produced by Left Out.

Hudson worked as a balance of payments economist at Chase Manhattan (1964–1968). He was Assistant Professor of Economics at the New School for Social Research (1969–1972) and in the eighties and nineties  worked for various governmental and non-governmental organizations as an economic consultant.

Hudson has extensively studied many economic schools, including  physiocracy,  classical political economy (Smith, Ricardo, George and Marx),  neo-classical, Keynesian, post-Keynesian, modern monetary theory, Georgism and others. He identifies himself as a classical economist. His interpretation of Marx is almost unique to him and differs from major Marxists.

He has devoted his career to the study of debt, both [US] domestic (loans, mortgages, interest payments), and external. He consistently argues that loans and exponentially growing debts outstrip profits from the real economy and are disastrous for government and the people of the borrowing state, as they wash money (payments to usurers and rentiers) from turnover, not leaving them funds to buy goods and services, leading to debt deflation.2 Hudson notes that dominant economic theory, Chicago School in particular, serves rentiers and has developed a special language designed to reinforce the impression that there is no alternative to the status quo. In a false theory, the parasitic encumbrances of a real economy, instead of being deducted in accounting, add up as an addition to the gross domestic product and are presented as productive … 

But Michael’s integrity, incisive intellect and dissections of the realpolitik beneath the lies on what the hot wars in the middle east – and fast warming ones on China and Russia – are truly about brought him a following far beyond the arcane corridors of academia.

Michael’s website can be found here.

His Junk Economics became a seminal text for the politically awakened, much as Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine did for radical liberalism. He featured frequently on this site, in part through my masthead quotes …

… but more importantly in my posts, including but by no means confined to these:

  • January 2020 reads of the month, in which Michael (third and most important read) contextualised the murder, a few days earlier, of Iranian General Quassem Suleimani;
  • Global warming: the USA weaponises oil;
  • Perilous days – a 2016 post in which I cite Michael in the context of rising Sinophobia, and a recent IMF rewriting of its own rules to overlook post Maidan Ukraine welshing on a debt to Russia, a debt incurred prior to that “fuck-the-EU colour revolution”:

Imagine the following scenario five years from now. China will have spent half a decade building high-speed railroads, ports, power systems and other construction for Asian and African countries, enabling them to grow and export more. These exports will be coming online to repay the infrastructure loans. Also, suppose that Russia has been supplying the oil and gas energy for these projects on credit.

…[now] suppose an American diplomat makes the following proposal to the leaders of countries in debt to China, Russia and the AIIB:3

Now you’ve got your increased production in place, why repay? We’ll make you rich if you stiff our adversaries and turn back to the West. We and our European allies will support your assigning your nations’ public infrastructure to yourselves and your supporters at insider prices, and give these assets market value by selling shares in New York and London. Then, you can keep the money and spend it in the West.

How can China or Russia collect in such a situation? They can sue. But what court in the West will accept their jurisdiction?

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Energetic to the end, Michael Hudson will be a hard act to follow and a presence sorely missed by all who – knowing on the one hand the criminal lengths to which Empire will go in the face of so serious a challenge as China Rising, on the other how ill served we are by systemically corrupt media – held in the highest regard the calm, icy brilliance of his writings.

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  1. I heard the news in this Consortium obituary piece by self styled “angry Arab”, As`ad AbuKhalil.
  2. ‘… loans … are disastrous for government and the people of the borrowing state, as … payments to usurers and rentiers leave them [without] funds to buy goods and services …”  Missing from this wiki account are two things. One, Michael did not take the interests of (comprador) governments in the global south to be as one with those of their peoples. Two, he saw harsh repayment terms as designed to ensure default, allowing Western investors to grab the fruits of enforced privatisation.
  3. AIIB = Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank – its loans more generous and with none of the privatisation strings the IMF attaches to its ‘development’ loans.

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