Browsing articles in "Articles"
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.

Dec 7, 2017

Connect these dots

Act 1: Let’s cut taxes!

Act 2: Look at that terrible deficit!

Act 3: Let’s cut Medicare and Social Security!

Now playing at a circus near you:

House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said Wednesday that congressional Republicans will aim next year to reduce spending on both federal health care and anti-poverty programs, citing the need to reduce America’s deficit. “We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit,” Ryan said…

Ryan’s remarks add to the growing signs that top Republicans aim to cut government spending next year. Republicans are close to passing a tax bill nonpartisan analysts say would increase the deficit by at least $1 trillion over a decade. Trump recently called on Congress to move to cut welfare spending after the tax bill, and Senate Republicans have cited the need to reduce the national deficit while growing the economy.

“You also have to bring spending under control. And not discretionary spending. That isn’t the driver of our debt. The driver of our debt is the structure of Social Security and Medicare for future beneficiaries,” Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said last week.

Read more here.

Nov 12, 2017

Land of opportunity?

From a new report on wealth inequality in America:

The three wealthiest people in the United States — Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos, and Warren Buffett — now own more wealth than the entire bottom half of the American population combined, a total of 160 million people or 63 million households.

Read it here.

Oct 21, 2017

The human & economic costs of pollution

A new report identifies the #1 cause of death worldwide: pollution.

Environmental pollution — from filthy air to contaminated water — is killing more people every year than all war and violence in the world. More than smoking, hunger or natural disasters. More than AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria combined.

One out of every six premature deaths in the world in 2015 — about 9 million — could be attributed to disease from toxic exposure, according to a major study released Thursday in the Lancet medical journal. The financial cost from pollution-related death, sickness and welfare is equally massive, the report says, costing some $4.6 trillion in annual losses — or about 6.2 percent of the global economy.

Read more here.

Sep 3, 2017

DNA for a new economy

Econ4’s David Bollier writes in The Nation:

The energy for serious, durable change will originate, as always, on the periphery, far from the guarded sanctums of official power and respectable opinion. Resources may be scarce at the local level, but the potential for innovation is enormous: Here one finds fewer big institutional reputations at stake, a greater openness to risk-taking, and an abundance of grassroots imagination and enthusiasm.

Beyond the Beltway’s gaze, the seeds of a new social economy are being germinated in neighborhoods and farmers’ fields, in community initiatives and on digital platforms. A variety of experimental projects, innovative organizations, and social movements are developing new types of local provisioning and self-governance systems. Aspiring to much more than another wave of incremental reform, most of these actors deliberately bypass conventional politics and policy. In piecemeal fashion, they unabashedly seek to develop the DNA for new types of postcapitalist social and economic institutions.

Read more here.

Aug 19, 2017

Fake infrastructure

Econ4’s Jerry Epstein writes on Trump’s infrastructure “plan”:

Infrastructure investment: it’s that economic policy sweet spot that everyone loves to love.

Fixing bridges, building roads, modernizing airports, improving mass transportation, keeping lead out of our water: nearly everyone can relate to the need for it and can imagine how much better their lives would be with more of it.

Read his post here.

Jul 24, 2017

Astrological economics

Mathematics can help to clarify ideas, but it can also put a scientific veneer on a load of bunk. A philosophy professor looks at the emperor’s clothes:

The success of math-heavy disciplines such as physics and chemistry has granted mathematical formulas with decisive authoritative force. Lord Kelvin, the 19th-century mathematical physicist, expressed this quantitative obsession:

When you can measure what you are speaking about and express it in numbers you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it… in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.

The trouble with Kelvin’s statement is that measurement and mathematics do not guarantee the status of science – they guarantee only the semblance of science. When the presumptions or conclusions of a scientific theory are absurd or simply false, the theory ought to be questioned and, eventually, rejected. The discipline of economics, however, is presently so blinkered by the talismanic authority of mathematics that theories go overvalued and unchecked.

Read the piece here.

Jul 23, 2017

Moral equality – and immoral inequality

From Robert Reich’s review of two new books about the perils of concentrated wealth & power:

The greatest threat to Western liberal democracies in the future is more likely to come from extreme inequality than from Islamic extremism. This is because inequality erodes two foundation stones of modern society — openness to new ideas and opportunities, and a conviction that all citizens are morally equal.

Read more here.

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