Browsing articles in "Articles"
Feb 17, 2012

Mainstream amnesia

Econ4 team member Gerald Epstein writes for TripleCrisis on the “Memento syndrome” in orthodox macroeconomics:

Like the protagonist in the movie Memento, who has no memory but is trying to solve the mystery of his wife’s murder, and has to remind himself every minute about what happened the minute before by writing notes and even tattooing himself , mainstream macroeconomists’  write themselves articles and books after every crisis and they then promptly forget what they wrote (no tattoos as far as I know).

I believe there is a reason for this: the mainstream never changes its underlying theory which is based on the erroneous ideas that financial markets are, by and large, perfectly self-governing and efficient and that the market economy has strong self-equilibrating forces that always bring the economy back to full employment… Since they won’t change their basic framework, they have nowhere to put the new information they get after each crisis. So, they forget it just as soon as they can…  The tragedy is that it is these same economists who still control the elite economics departments, the main economics journals and hold the key policy making and research positions in our public institutions such as the Federal Reserve. Their stranglehold must be broken if we are going to break the Memento syndrome that is hindering sensible economics and economic policy.

Read his piece here.

Feb 17, 2012

Dividends for the people

Peter Barnes, author of Capitalism 3.0, writes for onthecommons.org:

Why don’t we pay everyone some non-labor income — you know, the kind of money that flows disproportionally to the rich? I’m not talking about redistribution here, I’m talking about paying dividends to equity owners in good old capitalist fashion. Except that the equity owners in question aren’t owners of private wealth, they’re owners of common wealth. Which is to say, all of us.

One state—Alaska—already does this. The Alaska Permanent Fund uses revenue from state oil leases to invest in stocks, bonds and similar assets, and from those investments pays equal dividends to every resident. Since 1980, these dividends have ranged from $1,000 to $2,000 per year per person, including children (meaning that they’ve reached up to $8,000 per year for households of four). It’s therefore no accident that, compared to other states, Alaska has the third highest median income and the second highest income equality.

Alaska’s model can be extended to any state or nation, whether or not they have oil. Imagine an American Permanent Fund that pays dividends to all Americans, one person, one share. A major source of revenue could be clean air, nature’s gift to us all. Polluters have been freely dumping ever-increasing amounts of gunk into our air, contributing to ill-health, acid rain and climate change. But what if we required polluters to bid for and pay for permits to pollute our air, and decreased the number of permits every year? Pollution would decrease, and as it did, pollution prices would rise. Less pollution would yield more revenue. Over time, trillions of dollars would be available for dividends.

Read his piece here.

Feb 15, 2012

U.S. Defense Department budget since WW2

Food for thought from the National Priorities Project:

As the chart below shows, current defense spending levels – even without funding for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – are higher than at any time since World War II when adjusted for inflation.

 

Source:  http://nationalpriorities.org/publications/2012/talking-about-military-spending-and-the-pentagon-budget/

Jan 14, 2012

Unequal and unstable

Anant Thaker of the Boston Consulting Group and Elizabeth Williamson of the Frontenac Company look at the strong historical relationship between income inequality and America’s vulnerability to financial crises:
The correlation between income inequality and financial crises raises an important question: could it be that extended periods of increased income inequality help to cause financial crises? Evidence suggests this may well be the case, through three primary mechanisms that reinforce each other:
  • Sharp increases in debt-to-income ratios among lower- and middle-income households looking to maintain consumption levels as they fall behind in terms of income;
  • The creation of large pools of idle wealth, which increase the demand for investment assets, fuel financial innovation, and increase the size of the financial sector;
  • And disproportionate political power for elite financial interests which often yields policies that negatively affect the stability of the financial system.

Read their analysis here.

Jan 11, 2012

Economic fallacies: time to work more, or less?

Writing in The Guardian, Econ4 team member Juliet Schor explains the economic logic of a shorter working week:
In the models of neo-classical economics times like the present are assumed away. But when we’re actually living through them, we need to recognise that measures that result in higher hours can be counter-productive by creating more unemployment and investor pessimism. Similarly, responding to shortfalls in pension programs by asking people to stay in the labour force more years further dis-equilibrates the market by creating more demand for a limited number of jobs.
Read her piece here.
Jan 4, 2012

Fracking democracy

In 2010, Pittsburgh’s City Council voted unanimously to ban hydraulic fracturing for natural gas extraction within city limits. Now the Pennsylvania legislature is moving to deny local governments the right to protect the local environment:

We don’t have a fracking problem. We have a democracy problem.

 

Read about it here.

Dec 30, 2011

Globalization of protest

From Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz:

The best government that money can buy is no longer good enough.

 

Read his piece here.

Dec 18, 2011

The case for true-cost pricing: Indian Point nuclear plant

“Indian Point: The Next Fukushima?” Former Nuclear Regulatory Commission member Victor Gilinsky, writing in The New York Times:

Some 160,000 Japanese are still displaced because the radioactive contamination — in an area far less populated and less dense than the New York area — was so intense and far-reaching. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s cost-benefit analyses for Indian Point and other nuclear plants in the United States do not factor in these possibilities.

Read the entire piece here.

Dec 14, 2011

Econ4 in Chronicle of Higher Ed

Recently critics have mounted a more fundamental line of attack on mainstream economists, taking aim at the ideology that has grown dominant over the past 30 years, which they say played a significant part in causing the Great Recession and not doing much to help solve it.

Read the entire piece here.

Dec 11, 2011

Market share among U.S. banks

Source: http://www.nytimes.com/imagepages/2011/12/11/magazine/11economy2.html?ref=magazine.

From the same issue of the Times, Gretchen Morgenson’s excellent piece on TBTF (too big to fail):

Reducing the perils of gargantuan institutions — and the threat to taxpayers — is an idea that seems to be taking hold in Washington. To be sure, the army arguing for change is far outgunned by the battalions of bankers and lobbyists working to maintain the status quo. But some combatants seeking reform believe they are making headway.

Read it here.