Benjamin Kunkel

Benjamin Kunkel is the author of Indecision, a novel; Utopia or Bust, a collection of essays; and Buzz, a play.

    Sweet '16: Notes on the US Election

    by Benjamin Kunkel

    The acute capitalist crisis of 2008 has in the years since developed into a chronic complaint, to be managed but not overcome. In wealthy countries, ultra-low interest rates prop up consumer spending and, for investors, prolong the ‘asset-price Keynesianism’ described by Robert Brenner in the 2000s: the money conjured into being by government deficits no longer boosts the economy, through public investment and purchases, in the way of old-fashioned Keynesianism, but takes the form of cheap loan capital, which (funnelled through private banks or wagered on a bank’s own account) inflates the prices of stocks, bonds, and other paper or digital assets. Swollen private portfolios induce luxury spending, and the size of the resulting wealth effect, as Alan Greenspan liked to call it, does a lot to determine what volume of crumbs spills from the banquet table in the form of worker’s wages. Because the rich spend a smaller proportion of their income than others, asset-price Keynesianism is an inefficient way to inject demand into an economy. But the method has its allure: what could suit the rich better than rapidly inflating prices for what they have to sell – namely, financial assets – while prices of the ordinary goods and services they buy fail to rise at even the 2 per cent annually sought by central bankers as a minimum rate of inflation? To purchase the results of toil with the weightless gyrations of fictitious capital is a good bargain.

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    Celebrity Apprentice: Notes on the US Election

    by Benjamin Kunkel

    The acute capitalist crisis of 2008 has in the years since developed into a chronic complaint, to be managed but not overcome. In wealthy countries, ultra-low interest rates prop up consumer spending and, for investors, inflate the value of stocks, bonds, and other paper or digital assets. Swollen private portfolios induce luxury spending, and the size of the resulting wealth effect, as Alan Greenspan liked to call it, does a lot to determine what volume of crumbs spills from the banquet table in the form of worker’s wages. Because the rich spend a smaller proportion of their income than others, asset-price Keynesianism, as it has been called, is an inefficient way to inject demand into an economy. But the method has its allure: what could suit the rich better than rapidly rising prices for what they have to sell – namely, financial assets – while prices of the ordinary goods and services that they buy fall short of even the 2 per cent annual increase sought by central bankers as a minimum rate of inflation? To purchase the results of toil with the weightless gyrations of fictitious capital is a good bargain.

    More