Apr 19, 2020

Valuing work that’s truly valuable

From the political philosopher Michael Sandel:

The coronavirus pandemic has suddenly forced us to reconsider what social and economic roles matter most.

Many of the essential workers during this crisis are performing jobs that do not require college degrees; they are truckers, warehouse workers, delivery workers, police officers, firefighters, utility maintenance workers, sanitation workers, supermarket cashiers, stock clerks, nurse assistants, hospital orderlies and home care providers. They lack the luxury of working from the safety of their homes and holding meetings on Zoom. They, along with the doctors and nurses caring for the afflicted in overcrowded hospitals, are the ones who are putting their health at risk so the rest of us can seek refuge from contagion.

Beyond thanking them for their service, we should reconfigure our economy and society to accord such workers the compensation and recognition that reflects the true value of their contributions — not only in an emergency but in our everyday lives.

Read more here.

Apr 12, 2020

Coronomics

Fresh insights on the economy and economics in a time of pandemic:

  • • Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin on neoliberalism as a pre-existing condition: here.
  • • Sam Bowles and Wendy Carlin on rebooting the economic narrative: here.
  • • OXFAM on inequality under the magnifying lens: here.
  • • A rare glimpse of fossil fuel-free skies: here.
  • • Meanwhile, clowns run amok: here.
  • • Ezra Klein worries about coming fallout: here.
  • • Julio Vincent Gambuto on our opportunity for a new version of normal: here.

Stay safe and stay tuned.

Apr 10, 2020

The care theory of value

Economist Nancy Folbre explains why care workers – people who care for the ill, the disabled, children, the elderly – are chronically underpaid:

To bolster my care theory of value, I invoke the words of Warren Buffett, Sage of Omaha, referring to investment strategies. “Price is what you pay; value is what you get.”
He just doesn’t have the pronouns quite right for care workers on the front lines today:  Value is what you get, but price is what they pay.

Read more on her Care Talk blog, here.

Mar 23, 2020

Resilience and sustainability

As the coronavirus pandemic lays bare the fragility of global supply chains, the need for building more resilient and sustainable economies becomes ever more evident. It’s not just about medical supplies. In his new book, Feeding Britain, food policy expert Tim Lang dissects the nation’s perilous dependence on just-in-time supply chains in which eight mega-corporations control 90% of the retail market. From an interview in the Guardian:

What’s Lang’s solution? It’s detailed and includes the introduction of a food resilience and sustainability act, complete with legally binding targets. National nutritional guidelines should become the basis for food procurement contracts, both public and private. There should be an audit of food production in the UK and the budget for public health should be doubled from £2.5bn of the £130bn health budget to £5bn. It also proposes the creation of no fewer than nine bodies or institutions, including a royal commission to map a new set of “multi-criteria principles for the UK food system”, a food resilience and sustainability council and a network of urban and rural food and farming colleges.

Read more here.

Mar 16, 2020

Eat your credit card

Oops – you just did!

Every human on Earth is ingesting nearly 2,000 particles of plastic a week. These tiny pieces enter our unwitting bodies from tap water, food, and even the air, according to an alarming academic study sponsored by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature, dosing us with five grams of plastics, many cut with chemicals linked to cancers, hormone disruption, and developmental delays. Since the paper’s publication last year, Sen. Tom Udall, a plain-spoken New Mexico Democrat with a fondness for white cowboy hats and turquoise bolo ties, has been trumpeting the risk: “We are consuming a credit card’s worth of plastic each week,” Udall says. At events with constituents, he will brandish a Visa from his wallet and declare, “You’re eating this, folks!”

Read here about the campaign by Big Oil and Big Soda to bring the plastic horror show to your neighborhood – and stomach.

Mar 7, 2020

Killer fuels

Every year, poisonous air pollution from fossil fuels kills millions worldwide. Here’s the take-home from a new study in Cardiovascular Research: “Without fossil fuel emissions, the global mean life expectancy would increase by 1.1 years.”

Maybe that’s the health crisis we really ought to be freaking out about. Econ4’s James Boyce ponders the political implications of killer fuels:

Freeing ourselves from reliance on fossil fuels is not only good for the planet and future generations. It also saves lives here and now.

Read more here.

Feb 28, 2020

Paying the Price

The economics profession is starting to wake up to the terrible price of obsession with distribution-blind “efficiency”:

The AEA [American Economic Association] meetings took place against the backdrop of the publication of Anne Case and Angus Deaton’s remarkable and poignant book Deaths of Despair, which was presented during a special panel. Case and Deaton’s research shows how a particular set of economic ideas privileging the “free market,” along with an obsession with material indicators such as aggregate productivity and GDP, have fueled an epidemic of suicide, drug overdose, and alcoholism among America’s working class. Capitalism is no longer delivering, and economics is, at the very least, complicit.

Read more here.

Feb 22, 2020

Predation 101. Part 2: The Enablers

A remarkable new report from South Africa illuminates the role of international banks, accountancy firms, and lawyers in enabling state capture and corruption at home and abroad:

Read the report here. And see here for an eloquent interview with one of its authors.

Feb 15, 2020

Inequality 101

A new five-part video series from the Institute for New Economic Thinking:

For more, see here.

Jan 22, 2020

“Shocked and disappointed”

The Luanda Leaks reveal the complicity of international enablers in the looting of Africa. The head of one of the world’s top accounting firms is “shocked”:

Accounting giant PwC launched an internal investigation into its dealings with Angolan billionaire Isabel dos Santos, and a major Portuguese bank cut ties with her, as fallout from an International Consortium of Investigative Journalists examination of the source of her wealth continued.

Bob Moritz, the chairman of PwC, told ICIJ reporting partner The Guardian that he was “shocked and disappointed” by revelations that his firm advised companies owned by dos Santos.

Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum held in Davos, Switzerland, Mortiz said that PwC will investigate its work with dos Santos and that employees may be docked pay or dismissed if they behaved inappropriately. From a reputational perspective, the dos Santos story was the worst thing to have happened to PwC on his watch.

We’ve seen this movie before:

Read about it here and here.

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