Archive for Linkage

Linkage: Soylent, Euro-Fascism, Sharing, ‘Disruption’

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Dr diagnoses earth with capitalism

“A terrifying diagnosis”, from Ian Angus’s Ecosocialist Notebook.

It’s made out of… powder?

SoylentGreenisPeopleIf you’re like me, you are instinctively creeped out by this new fad “food” with the dystopian name: Soylent. But I have to admit Adam Ozimek’s assessment of it in Forbes is pretty sober. This bizarre product is certainly not ushering in 1984. But I’m at the same time sad for Ozimek, who doesn’t seem to understand what it’s like to appreciate the quality of every meal. Throw out your microwave and slow the hell down; it will change your life.

Fascism returns to Europe?

Ukrainian ultra-nationalist protestersA lot is being made on the Left of the influence of supposed neo-Nazis operating within the new interim Ukrainian government, as well as on the ground, inside the newly formed National Guard security units. Even after reading innumerable articles on the matter, I honestly cannot verify the extent to which these claims are true, and I suspect opinionmakers on the Left are once again spinning reality somewhat to fit their preferred narrative, just as Russia very obviously is doing. Honestly, I care less about the minutia of Ukrainian politics than the big picture, and I think this New Replublic portrayal of Russia’s fascistic policies and ties to ultra-Right in Western Europe should be eye-opening. It relates to my thesis from last month’s commentary here about Russia’s economy looking an awful lot like 20th Century fascism.

Cities: made for sharing

sharingI haven’t looked very far into the particular notion of the commons offered by On the Commons, which calls itself a “commons movement strategy center”, but this very short excerpt from The Sharing Revolution by Jay Walljasper is pretty cool. It offers a brief history of the atomized suburban dwelling, as well as hopeful remarks about returning to a reduced-consumption state of affairs offered by new technologies and intentional human proximity. I’m adding On the Commons to my resource links list to make sure I investigate further soon.

Disrupt This!

Having one foot firmly planted in the technology startup world, I read/hear the words “disrupt” and “disruptive” used in a fairly asinine way several times daily. It honestly drives me nuts, driveled as it is by greed-addled “serial entrepreneurs” out to “change the world” while getting rich. Someday I’ll write about it myself, but I’m pleased to be able to point you to this thrashing of the fetish concept/term as employed by thoroughly system-reinforcing, for-profit, status-quo enterprise founders and fans today.

sorensen-disruptors

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Linkage: Oligarchy USA, BitCoin Revolution?, Climate Change, Piketty Illustrated

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Just some recommended reading; my favorite recent posts from around the Web looking forward, or giving context to understanding the future of our economic lives.

Is the US an Oligarchy?

A new paper (PDF) by economists from Princeton and Northwestern strongly suggests that the US federal government is effectively controlled by its wealthiest class. This isn’t startling news to you, or probably anyone who isn’t a political scientist or an economist. But it is news that, at long last, a couple of serious economists have taken the time to lay out just how serious elites’ manipulation of the polity, and thereby society, truly is.

Better than slogging through their paper, check out Joe Firestone’s post that’s a little less reserved than the original report, out-and-out calling the United States an oligarchy. The argument is a little bit semantics (never hurt anyone) and a lotta bit damning.

An Overview of Libertarian Socialist Options

anarcho-communist flagWayne Price has put together a survey article touching on most of the prominent contemporary ideas for alternatives to capitalism and authoritarian socialism. Unfortunately, the piece doesn’t live up to the promise of its title (“Worker Self-Directed Enterprises: A Revolutionary Program”), as there’s no strategy or program in sight.

Can Alternative Currency Be Revolutionary?

bitcoin-revolutionJeremy Roos has done a tremendous service in diligently reporting on, and providing insightful, radical observations of, the MoneyLab: Coining Alternatives conference that took place last month in Amsterdam, covering digital currencies and electronic economic platforms. Roos’s review is extensive, but it concisely analyzes numerous topics such as the limitations of BitCoin and the downside of KickStarter. Each commentary is more interesting than the last. Do yourself the favor.

We Just Can’t Win on Climate Change

The hot fledgling news and analysis site Vox has been churning out some decent content. So far, it’s a very refreshing change to the perverse brevity of the clickbait and listicle sites permeating the progressive Web. A piece called “Two Degrees” by Brad Plumer had me shaking my head in disgust — not at the writing, but at what it suggests about humanity. It’s a great primer on climate change, its prospects and implications. If you don’t really know the bad news, start here. It’s time to wake up.

Modeling Piketty’s Immiseration Thesis

piketty-capital-21st-centuryFinally, I’d be remiss at this time if I didn’t make some mention of the most talked about economics book of our time: Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century. Unfortunately, I haven’t even opened it yet. Fortunately, Matthew Martin has laid out a really neat hypothetical that illustrates Piketty’s main thesis. I really enjoyed reading the post; it should whet your appetite for the main course.

 

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Linkage: Peak Oil, Symbolic Wealth, Class War, Externalities

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I’ve been very busy lately and thus haven’t been able to post even links to all the terrific stuff I’ve been reading. I’m trying to use Twitter and Google+ a little more to share links to stories, but as usual the temptation to comment somewhat substantively is very hard to resist. I hope you find some of these interesting!

Getting Sober on Peak Oil

I think a lot of folks on both sides of the the debate over the concept of peak oil are drunk with ideologism. So I really appreciate, and essentially agree with, James Hamilton’s sober take.

‘Symbolic Wealth’

I’m not a fan of the style of Charles Hugh Smith’s blog; I think his peculiar presentation — in design and rhetoric — undermines his credibility. But I can’t help agreeing with him a significant portion of the time. Here he exposes the fallacy of wealth and equity as it corresponds to the real world. Nothing groundbreaking, but if you’re new to economic philosophy, this is something a lot of PhD economists can’t seem to grasp… yetI bet you’ll get it intuitively.

No War Like Class War

Richard D. Wolff drops knowledge on the history of class conflict and consciousness in America. It ain’t what’s being presented in recent debates.

Republicans claim, in Orwellian fashion, that Obama’s millionaire tax is ‘class war’. The reality is that the super-rich won the war.

Pollute for America?

Karl Smith over at Modeled Behavior makes a case that we need to suck it up and get polluting if we hope to escape our economic woes to the extent they’re driven by low cheap-energy supply. I read a lot of economists from across the spectrum, and I appreciate those who acknowledge climate change and resource limits as scientific truths, even if they conclude we shouldn’t worry so much in the short term.

Now in the long run something has to be done, if for no other reason than fossil fuels are not forever. In the short run there are many who are concerned about pollution, both C02 and the groundwater pollution from new fracking techniques.

I do not argue that these aren’t serious concerns. I do not dispute the science of global warming or the clear evidence of burning water, from natural gas contamination.

However, there are things worse the pollution and we have them. We should take steps to mitigate the harm but our first duty should be to relieve suffering now where we can and lay the foundation for recovery in the immediate future.

I disagree completely, but it’s interesting. Karl incidentally does not show his math (seems to avoid it, in fact) in terms of demonstrating why he thinks opening protected reserves can affect the market.

Food Inc. Strikes Back

Agribusiness giants are fighting back against the Michael Pollans and Food, Incs of the new food movement. Food advocate Anna Lappé expplains why we definitely do not want the new U.S. Farmers & Ranchers Alliance influencing food policy debate in America. (And why you can count on them doing just that.)

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Linkage: Ecuadorian ‘Utopia’, CEO Pay vs. Taxes, Corps vs. Unions, School ‘Reform’, ‘Overpopulation’

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Okay, remembering that these “linkage” posts are really just supposed to be for me to get some recommended reads out without doing my usual (admittedly often overwrought) analysis… trying hard to keep it short and resist extensive comment…

1/4 of Big Corp CEOs Get Bigger Cut than Uncle Sam

That’s right: 25 of the top 100 US corporations pay their CEOs more than they pay in income taxes. In these cases, one guy is benefiting from corporate profits more than the entire public. Also noteworthy, the pay collected by top executives in 2010 was 325 times that of the average worker in that company, up from a factor of 263 in 2009!

A ‘New Economic Utopia’ in Ecuador?

I’m going to have to take a better look at what NEF’s Saamah Abdallah is calling a kind of “utopia” in the remote Intag Valley of Ecuador. Very interesting engagement of localism and alternative economics by villagers.

‘Crisis of Advanced Capitalism’

I just found this unorthodox writer Charles Hugh Smith (what’s up with economists named “Smith”?). I really don’t know what to make of him yet, and wish I could give this piece on “Marx, Labor’s Dwindling Share of the Economy and the Crisis of Advanced Capitalism” a thorough critique. But it’s an interested read.

‘Workers of the World, Good Night’

This short piece from Rick Bookstaber (via EconoMonitor) gets off to a slow start, but I enjoyed reading it (and wish I had time to tear it apart, but alas…).

Labor Unions vs. Corporations

I found this mildly anti-union commentary to be informative in terms of how many “libertarian”-leaning economic observers view unions, especially as compared to corporations. It’s kind of amazing that solidarity and cooperation as principles per se seem like foreign concepts even to economists who acknowledge that these are a key aims of unions in a strictly economistic/functional sense. As the author Adam Ozimek puts it:

If, however, you see anti-competitive behavior as a reason that unions exist, then the comparison [to corporations] falls apart.

I guess from my perspective, it’s funny to consider that “anti-competitive behavior” is not the raison d’etre of labor unions. “Anti-competitive” sounds so much more dastardly than “cooperative”.

Update: I can’t help myself (which means moving on to my real work of the day rather than reading/blogging economics). A few more links:

Latest from EPI

The Economic Policy Institute has a couple of new contributions. One is a study on the “lasting damage” of high joblessness on “wages, benefits, income, and wealth”. No big surprise, but some important research. Also some doozies like “Roughly 31% of U.S. workers experienced unemployment or underemployment at some point in 2009″, and “To fill the [net jobs shortfall] by mid-2014 … 400,000 jobs would need to be created each month.”

Also from EPI, this much-needed decimation of a new book by education pseudo-reform champion Stephen Brill (Waiting for Superman). Called Class Warfare, the book is reportedly even more brazen in its ignorance of educational reality than the documentary. The review pulls no punches in exposing the odd mix of liberal/conservative/”libertarian” figures of this new anti-union “reform” movement:

These crusaders now are the establishment, as arrogant as any that preceded them.

‘Overpopulation’ Bogey Man Haunts Times Square

I will take any chance to lash out at the overpopulation myth, but I’d much rather let others do it for me better. Betsy Hartmann does this in Common Dreams (via Climate and Capitalism). Hartmann is jumping on a new video playing in Times Square that apparently tries to terrify tourists about growing human populations. Hartmann makes short work of this idiocy:

Instead of blaming overpopulation, Americans need to get serious about climate policy, conservation, the transition to renewable energy, and mass transport.  And we need to challenge the grotesque and growing inequality of wealth and power in our nation that fuels conspicuous consumption and weakens the government’s commitment to environmental regulation. It’s also high time for environmentalists to stop turning a blind eye toward the role of the military in environmental degradation.

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Linkage: Sachs on Happinomics, Baker Kicks Double-dippers, Yves Kicks Ezra, More

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I read so damn many interesting commentaries and articles every day, I couldn’t hope to blog even a fraction of the most provocative here. So I’m going to start posting links to good stuff with (very uncharacteristically) brief comments here, if I remark at all. Right? Sure. I’ll try it.

Happinomics

First up, a great piece I by one of the few progressive economists who really convincingly cares about people: Jeffrey Sachs. We disagree on solutions and some other big areas, but I can’t help liking this guy, and not just because he’s buds with my little brother. His latest commentary is on “The Economics of Happiness“, and it made me smile. A quick excerpt:

[T]o promote happiness, we must identify the many factors other than GNP that can raise or lower society’s well-being. Most countries invest to measure GNP, but spend little to identify the sources of poor health (like fast foods and excessive TV watching), declining social trust, and environmental degradation. Once we understand these factors, we can act.

Baker Kicks Double-Dippers; Rasmus Kicks Back

Notoriously prescient economist Dean Baker, whose prediction of a housing bubble and its effects I started paying close attention to way back in 2003, gained lots of attention yesterday with remarks in his own blog about the prospect of a double-dip recession, or lack thereof:

Of course consumption is not really growing that fast, more likely it is increasing at near a 2.0 percent annual rate, but maybe this number will shut up the arithmetic challenged economists who keep talking about a double-dip recession.

The implication is that tens of millions of people will remain unemployed or underemployed because of the Wall Street sleazes and the incompetent economists who could not see an $8 trillion housing bubble and still don’t know a damn thing about the economy. It’s a crime that they still have their jobs.

These fighting words — which really just pile on to a more detailed argument from last week — got noticed by some economists who foresee a second dip, including one of my other favorites, Jack Rasmus, who took exception:

Baker conveniently forgets that some of the most prescient economists who predicted the recession and financial collapse back in 2007 are also now predicting that a double dip in the coming months is increasingly likely. In other words, not everyone forecasting double dip today were the polyannas predicting no recession back in 2007.

Dean isn’t without friends, though. Karl Smith over at Modeled Behavior backs him up, tentatively.

Yves Smith vs. Ezra Klein on Refi Ridiculousness

One of the Obama administration’s hairbrained ideas for boosting the slouched housing market and economy is to offer a new federal refinancing program that would of course work with private lenders to help homeowners get a new life on their equity or maybe get out from underwater.

This is dumb. Thanks to Naked Capitalism’s Yves Smith (heavily citing Adam Levitin) for speaking direct, simple truth to this silliness. Levitin shuts the idea down effectively, but Smith locks the door by pointing out that there are real opportunity costs to pursuing mediocre-at-best policies, a lesson the administration seems determined not to learn. Whereas administration pumper Ezra Klein had said “it’s worth a try”. No, Ezra, it’s really just not.

‘Who Will Help the Poor?’

This is the title question of a commentary by Dominique Moisi, who worries (as do I) that in a belt-tightening frenzy ravaging the West, the world’s most vulnerable populations are without a helping hand. I wish I had time to critique this one, as I don’t totally agree with the premises, but I am so hungry for anyone actually caring about this matter, I wanted to draw readers’ attention to it even without remark.

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