Modern finance tries as hard as it can to be obtuse, opaque, and unintelligible.
You can even hear this from establishment sources, as they cry out for "transparency in the markets". But still, without active government intervention, transparency is on the decline: nobody knows what is going on in the commodities market, in the securitized bonds market, even in the stock market. Speculators pump and dump. This is the "free market" tendency.
All of this seems to be irrational, an aberration from the "free market" ideals. (The quotations are to indicate that this is a marketing term, that liberty does not necessarily proceed from mercantile exchange.) This fact is a bit strange if you come from an orthodox economic training, such as that which is propagated in the newspapers or in Econ 201 classes across the US.
However, lack of transparency in economic discourse follows directly if you understand economics as a struggle between class interests. It is simply that the explanation that fits best with the facts is too empowering to propagate. Broad understanding of the essentials is not to the advantage of the dominant class in society. Anyone caught discussing class is accused of being corrosive or divisive. You will not find "class" in 7th grade textbooks.
Simply put, a class-based understanding of economics and society has a higher explanatory, expressive, and predictive power than a "free market-based" ideology. Furthermore, it aligns with a moral imperative to abolish class itself.
To me, the moment in which this clicked for me was in college, when an old socialist teaching a sort of russian studies class mentioned that the socialists, the communists, and the anarchists knew that World War I was coming, that they wrote about it, that it was an inevitable consequence of the expansion of finance capital (as opposed to land/agricultural or industrial capital).
When your primary interest is financial capital, you form part of the non-productive economy, of the equestrian class; and capital's imperative being to grow at all costs, you must choose where to invest (not whether to invest). The highest profits have traditionally been found via exploitation (use or utilization, esp. for profit) of the undeveloped world. Rubber from Africa, coffee from Latin America, tea from Asia -- not to mention petroleum.
As Eduardo Galeano notes, capital does not go to Latin America because Latin America is poor -- it goes because Latin America is rich, it goes to exploit, to bleed off the "excess value".
When two sugar-frenzied gunpowder-toting finance-laden World Powers happen to coincide -- well from there we have the detentes, the German South-West Africas, leading to war as an externalization of financial conflict. The losers, of course, are the ones on whose land the fight occurs -- the Hereros, the Balkans, the Iraqis (our armies do not come into your cities and lands as conquerors or enemies, but as liberators).
So, the wine from lunch led me a bit off track. My point is that all real revolutionary analysis and action has taken aim at, among other things, the financial system. Witness the Populists of the 1890s, which gave broad understanding of monetary policy to ordinary people, gave them tools with which to critique the machinations of the Morgans and the Chases. The Wobblies, the anarchists, even the reformers of the 30s knew this.
Now we are at a point where broad understanding of monetary policy is essential -- both understanding of the current situation, and knowing what our options are. There has been some excellent economic analysis in Z Magazine recently, in a series by Jack Rasmus.
Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac -- Phase two of financial crisis (Sept 08)
Emerging Epic Recession? (Jun 08)
From Financial Crisis to Recession, Part II -- Symptoms appear of a fundamental financial instability (Apr 08)
From Global Financial Crisis to Global Recession, Part I -- Precipitating the fall (Mar 08)
I believe that first and the last articles are freely available, but the middle two need at least a free registration and possibly a subscription.
subscribe already mkay
Here's where I get on the stump: If you claim to be a radical, if you want to be a radical, you must subscribe to radical media. It is completely necessary. Z Magazine, for example, is a great one. Its quality varies, but the high points are pretty high. (It took me some time to appreciate the cartoons.)
More importantly, such fora are crucial for getting out the word about important, constructive things happening on the left -- from Parecon to the IVAW Winter Soldier events, to fights for ecologically sustainable patterns of food, transport, and housing, to checking on what's going on in other facets of the movement -- GLBT rights, anti-racism, etc.
Radical media are a crucial point of bridge-building and solidarity between parts of the radical left. Without them, we are left feeling like we are on our own. So subscribe to Z already!