Vasuki Shastry, Asia’s 8 Circles of Hell

“Inspired by Dante’s Inferno, Shastry takes readers on a journey through modern Asia’s eight circles of hell where we encounter urban cowboys and cowgirls fleeing rural areas to live in increasingly uninhabitable cities, disadvantaged teenage girls unable to meet their aspirations due to social strictures, internal mutiny, messy geopolitics from the rise of China, and a political and business class whose interests are in conflict with a majority of the population. Shastry challenges conventional thinking about Asia’s place in the world and the book is essential reading for those with an interest in the continent’s future.”    –From the book description, Amazon

Lawrence M. Ludlow, “Dante’s Divine Comedy and the Divine Origins of the Free Market”

lawrence-ludlow-dantes-origins-divine-comedy-and-the-divine-origins-of-the-free-market

“We already are familiar with the Marxian social gospel that is so popular among many current theologians and their followers. In the verses I will cite, Dante himself voices an understanding of the marketplace that shares this erroneous communitarian view of economics. In particular, he describes his adherence to what is known among libertarians as the fallacy of zero-sum economics. Those who hold the zero-sum view claim that in a free marketplace, the gains of one participant are exactly balanced by the losses of another. If the total of the gains and losses are added up, the sum will be zero. In other words, if the sum total of all wealth were embodied in a single chocolate cake, one person’s share of cake would be another’s loss. Furthermore, the addition of each new market participant requires the slicing of thinner and thinner pieces of this cake. We libertarians, of course, despise this theory. If it were correct, the seven billion inhabitants of planet Earth would now be sharing and dividing infinitesimally small pieces of the very same chocolate cake that was first made available in the mists of Mexican pre-history. If such were true, I frankly wonder if there would be so much as a single calorie available to any of us – and very stale calories at that. Furthermore, the current spectacle of American obesity appears to belie this interpretation without my assistance.

“But as soon as Dante expresses his zero-sum analysis of marketplace economics, Virgil – who acts as Dante’s divinely appointed guide throughout his journey down into the Inferno and during his wonderful ascent of the Purgatorio – immediately upbraids him and provides the correct alternative, an unabashed free-market perspective. In Dante’s poem, this perspective is a reflection of the divine perspective of God. Let’s now examine the text itself.” [. . .]    –Lawrence M. Ludlow, Strike The Root, May 14, 2013.

“The Circles of American Financial Hell”

Circles-American-Financial-Hell-Atlantic“As people move up the income ladder, they escape material shortages and consume more. They have ‘things’—goods, houses, and, most importantly, education—to show for their higher earnings, but they do not have healthy finances. Having those ‘things’ is of course an improvement over not having them, but only for the very, very rich (or the very, very unusual) is there any real escape from the pressure-cooker of American household finances.” — Rebecca J. Rosen, “The Circles of American Financial Hell,” The Atlantic (May 5, 2016)

“New Rivals Pose Threat to New York Stock Exchange”

new-rivals-pose-threat-to-new-york-stock-exchange“For most of the 217 years since its founding under a buttonwood tree on Wall Street, the New York Stock Exchange was the high temple of American capitalism. Behind its Greco-Roman facade, traders raised a Dante-esque din in their pursuit of the almighty dollar. Good times or bad, the daily melee on the cavernous trading floor made the Big Board the greatest marketplace for stocks in the world.” [. . .]    –Graham Bowley, The New York Times, October 14, 2009

“Jean-Claude Trichet: Like the Single Currency, Our European Culture Binds Us Together”

jean-claude-trichet-like-the-single-currency-our-european-culture-binds-us
“I am convinced that economic and cultural affairs, that money and literature and poetry, are much more closely linked than many people believe. We should recall that writing came into being in Sumer, the cradle of civilisation between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, 6,000 years ago. Sumer’s administrators made a record of everyday items, of quantities, of transactions, on clay tablets. By recording these economic activities, these ‘proto-accountants’ created the first documents in human history and paved the way for all of the world’s written literature.
There is a relationship between poetry and money which has always struck me. Poems, like gold coins, are meant to last, to keep their integrity, sustained by their rhythm, rhymes and metaphors. In that sense, they are like money – they are a ‘store of value’ over the long term. They are both aspiring to inalterability, whilst they are both destined to circulate from hand to hand and from mind to mind.
Both culture and money, poems and coins belong to the people. Our currency belongs to the people of Europe in a very deep sense: it is their own confidence in their currency which makes it a successful medium of exchange, unit of account and store of value. Our culture is the wealth of literature and art that the confidence of the people has decided to preserve over time.
European-ness means being unable to understand my national literature and poetry without understanding Dante, Cervantes, Shakespeare. And as the Spanish philosopher Jose’ Ortega y Gasset wrote in his The Revolt of the Masses in 1930: ‘If we were to take an inventory of our mental stock today – opinions, standards, desires, assumptions – we should discover that the greater part of it does not come to the Frenchman from France, nor to the Spaniard from Spain, but from the common European stock.’
It is no coincidence that the European Central Bank chose European architectural styles to illustrate our banknotes. These architectural styles were born in very different areas of Europe. They provide another powerful illustration of this unique concept of unity within diversity, which is the central trait of our continent.
European Central Bank president Jean-Claude Trichet was speaking at the Centre for Financial Studies in Frankfurt earlier this week.”    —The Independent, March 19, 2009

Karl Marx, “Das Kapital” (1867)

karl-marx-das-kapital-1867Ending his preface to the first edition of Das Kapital, Marx states the following:

“I welcome every opinion based on scientific criticism. As to the prejudices of so-called public opinion, to which I have never made concessions, now, as ever, my maxim is that of the great Florentine: ‘Segui il tuo corso, e lascia dire le genti.'”    –Karl Marx, Capital: A Critique of Political Economy, trans. Ben Fowkes, ed. David Fernbach, Fowkes, and Ernest Mandel (New York: Penguin Classics, 1976), p. 93.

As the editors note, Marx actually altered Dante’s words for his own purposes. The original line, Purgatorio V 13, is as follows: “Vien dietro a me, a lasica dir le genti.”

Rolando Perez, “The Electric Comedy” (2000)

rolando-perez-the-electric-comedy-2000“Confronting not the papacy but the postmodern world of the Internet and global economics, this collection of satirical poems inspired by Dante’s Inferno explores the comic and tragic realities of contemporary life. At times graphic and abrasive, the language and style in this stirring collection mirrors the violence and social fragmentation that it describes. The imagined thoughts and interests of Dante as he composed the Inferno infuse this edgy, inventive collection that invites readers to participate in the creation of new mythologies that draw from the wisdom of the past.”    —Google Books