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May 11, 2018

Political Economy of the Environment: New video series from Econ4

Econ4 is pleased to announce its new video series on the Political Economy of the Environment, produced in partnership with the University of Massachusetts Amherst department of economics.

Part One: Introduction

  1. The economy & the environment. Are people different from pondweed?
  2. Limits to growth – of what? It’s time for a new formula: grow the good, and shrink the bad.
  3. Political economy. Who wins, who loses, who decides?
  4. Safety, efficiency, sustainability, and justice. What should be the goals in environmental policy?

Part Two: Environmental protection – in theory and practice

  1. What is efficiency? There’s more – and less – to neoclassical efficiency than meets the eye.
  2. Discounting the future. Are the lives of our grandchildren worth less than our own?
  3. The value of a statistical life. How do economists put a monetary value on risks of death?
  4. Externalities. External costs and benefits are not the exception – they’re the rule.
  5. The Coase theorem. Why private bargaining can seldom solve environmental externalities.
  6. The tragedy of the commons. More accurately, the tragedies of open access.
  7. Environmental justice. Defending the right to a clean and safe environment.
  8. Power & the environment. Costs and benefits weighted by the power of those to whom they accrue.
  9. Regulation & environmental protection. Rules as a solution to environmental problems.
  10. Incentive-based environmental policies. Prices as another way to solve environmental problems.
  11. Market failure & government failure. Democracy versus oligarchy: beyond the market-versus-government debate.

Part Three: Global dimensions

  1. Globalization & the environment. The globalization of market failure poses new challenges for governance.
  2. The environmental Kuznets curve. What happens to the environment as per capita income goes up?
  3. Population & the environment. What Malthus got wrong.
  4. Tropical deforestation. How transnational alliances can change balances of power.
  5. Building natural assets. How poverty reduction and environmental protection can go hand-in-hand.
  6. Agriculture & the environment. The costs of industrial agriculture and benefits of ecological agriculture.
  7. Cultivated biodiversity. Small farmers sustain some of the world’s most valuable biodiversity.

Part Four: Climate policy

  1. Climate change. The defining environmental challenge of the 21st century.
  2. Carbon pricing: 1. Why & how? Why we need to put price on fossil carbon, and how we can do it.
  3. Carbon pricing: 2. The social cost of carbon. What should be the price on carbon dioxide emissions?
  4. Carbon pricing: 3. Revenue allocation. The trillion dollar question: who will get the money?
  5. International climate negotiations. No-regrets policies can help overcome myopia and the free rider problem.

Check out the whole series here.

 

May 4, 2018

State of Resistance

State of Resistance, by Manuel Pastor, draws out lessons from the fall and rise of California’s economy:

Once upon a time, any mention of California triggered unpleasant reminders of Ronald Reagan and right-wing tax revolts, ballot propositions targeting undocumented immigrants, and racist policing that sparked two of the nation’s most devastating riots. California confronted many of the challenges the rest of the country faces now–decades before the rest of us.

Today, California is leading the way on addressing climate change, low-

wage work, immigrant integration, over-incarceration, and more. As white residents became a minority and job loss drove economic uncertainty, California had its own Trump moment twenty-five years ago, but has become increasingly blue over each of the last seven presidential elections.

How did the Golden State manage to emerge from its unsavory past to become a bellwether for the rest of the country?

Read more here.

May 2, 2018

Economics and morality

Economists cannot avoid grappling with moral questions, says … The Economist:

To be useful, economists need to learn to understand and evaluate moral arguments rather than dismiss them.

Many economists will find that a dismal prospect. Calculations of social utility are tidier, and the profession has fallen out of the habit of moral reasoning. But those who wish to say what society should be doing cannot dodge questions of values.

Read more here.

See also The Economist’s Oath by Econ4’s George DeMartino.

Mar 17, 2018

An economic Bill of Rights

It’s time to revive an idea floated by Franklin D. Roosevelt, write Mark Paul, Sandy Darity and Darrick Hamilton in the American Prospect:

Many may question in this time of “resistance,” if this is the right time to fight for an expansion of economics rights, but no one wins anything of consequence by simply playing defense.

Read more here.

Mar 9, 2018

Rethinking the economic role of the state

Mariana Mazzucato offers a counterpoint to market fundamentalism: the state is the “investor of first resort,” whose key role in the innovation ought to be recognized and rewarded.

Source: Institute for New Economic Thinking (INET).

Jan 29, 2018

The fossil-free future

The clean energy transition has turned a corner, writes Bill McKibben:

The fossil-fuel industry is no longer minting money. It’s been underperforming the rest of the economy—and no wonder. Sun and wind are ultimately free, and that puts remarkable price pressure on the stuff you have to dig up and burn. Every single day, the electric car moves further along the path from novelty to normal… The question now is not whether big oil is going down; the question is how fast—and how we make sure the transition is a just one.

Read more here.

Jan 13, 2018

Why equity-minded foundations are losing the war

In a thought-provoking analysis of the failure of equity-oriented foundations to reverse widening inequality, David Callahan of Inside Philanthropy writes:

Over the past few years, many foundations have put equity front and center in their work….

But guess what? Here in early 2018, economic stratification only seems to be getting worse in America. A new tax law just went into effect that economists say will increase inequality and likely lead to cuts in government safety net programs down the line. And around the U.S., governors and state legislatures are engaged in their own efforts to shift wealth upwards and cut social programs. Meanwhile, even as unemployment drops to near-record lows, millions of working Americans still can’t make ends meet, while the top 1 percent—which owns half of all stocks and mutual funds—grow ever richer from a historic bull market. In many gentrifying cities, boom times have made it harder for low-income households to get by, not easier, by driving up housing prices. And the only thing rising faster than housing prices, it seems, are healthcare premiums and college tuition.

In short, those funders working for equity and against inequality are getting their butts kicked. Why is that?

… here, in a nutshell, is why grantmaker efforts tend to yield so little success: Because equity-minded foundations keep failing to zero in on the all-important sphere of political economy. Inequality mainly stems from how the U.S. economy works and, critically, the range of public policies and power arrangements that govern economic life. Yet, instead of focusing laser-like on this fundamental reality, funders embrace overly diffuse, often localized strategies that yield few larger systemic gains. They win battles here and there, while losing the war.

Read more here.

Jan 11, 2018

Economic theory of relativity

Writing in the New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert describes recent research on the human aversion to inequality:

As any parent knows, children watch carefully when goodies are divvied up. A few years ago, a team of psychologists set out to study how kids too young to wield the word “unfair” would respond to unfairness. They recruited a bunch of preschoolers and grouped them in pairs. The children were offered some blocks to play with and then, after a while, were asked to put them away. As a reward for tidying up, the kids were given stickers. No matter how much each child had contributed to the cleanup effort, one received four stickers and the other two. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children shouldn’t be expected to grasp the idea of counting before the age of four. But even three-year-olds seemed to understand when they’d been screwed. Most of the two-sticker recipients looked enviously at the holdings of their partners. Some said they wanted more. A number of the four-sticker recipients also seemed dismayed by the distribution, or perhaps by their partners’ protests, and handed over some of their winnings. “We can . . . be confident that these actions were guided by an understanding of equality, because in all cases they offered one and only one sticker, which made the outcomes equal,” the researchers reported. The results, they concluded, show that “the emotional response to unfairness emerges very early.”

Read more here.

Jan 7, 2018

Union made

It ain’t rocket science, folks:

Dec 31, 2017

Trickle up

From the new World Inequality Report:

Income shares of the top 1% versus bottom 50% in the United States

Read all about it here.

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