Jun 25, 2019

New left economics

Interesting piece in The Guardian on new thinking about the economy:

There is a dawning recognition that a new kind of economy is needed: fairer, more inclusive, less exploitative, less destructive of society and the planet. “We’re in a time when people are much more open to radical economic ideas,” says Michael Jacobs, a former prime ministerial adviser to Gordon Brown….

This “democratic economy” is not some idealistic fantasy: bits of it are already being constructed in Britain and the US. And without this transformation, the new economists argue, the increasing inequality of economic power will soon make democracy itself unworkable.

Read more here.

Jun 25, 2019

“Time to tear up our economics textbooks”

“”I don’t care who writes the nation’s laws – or crafts its advanced treaties – if I can write its economic textbooks.” – Paul Samuelson

In the Washington Post, Robert Samuelson (no relation) writes:

The modern era in economics textbooks began in 1948 with the publication of Samuelson’s first introductory edition. We now are at a similar moment. We need to tear up the existing texts and start over, adding what is relevant and discarding what is outdated or unimportant….

The role of introductory textbooks is not to educate the next generation of economists. They will take many courses. For most of us, the purpose of studying economics is more modest. It is to make the world a little more understandable and, with luck, to force us to acknowledge what’s realistic and what’s not. But to play this constructive role, the textbooks must be up to date.

Read his piece here.

May 18, 2019

Not so fantastic

What do the plastics industry and the tobacco industry have in common? More than you might think:

For decades … the industry cast doubt on marine plastic problems or dodged responsibility. At the 1989 International Conference on Marine Debris (which the industry-funded Council for Solid Waste Solutions co-sponsored), for instance, the society issued an official statement claiming that most plastic pollution was “beyond the ‘control’ of the plastics industry.” In 2008, Joseph, the industry attorney, wrote in a court filing that “there is no evidence that plastic bags are a continuing significant problem for marine animals or seabirds.”

Read “Pushing Plastic,” investigative reporting from the Center for Public Integrity, here.

May 12, 2019

Stiglitz on Adam Smith & democratic socialism

Joe Stiglitz in the Washington Post:

Adam Smith, the founder of modern economics, recognized how, if unregulated, businesses would conspire against the public interest by raising prices and suppressing wages. Yet he also suggested that at times markets would lead, as if by an invisible hand, to the well-being of society. Now we understand why markets often fail to deliver on their promise and why Smith’s invisible hand often seems invisible: because it simply isn’t there. Modern theories of industrial organization have taught us how firms construct barriers to entry to enhance their market power. Twenty years into this new century, the empirical evidence is overwhelming: There is increasing market concentration in sector after sector, with increasing profits and increasing markups in prices….

A key component to the democratic socialist agenda is democracy. Democracy is more than having elections every four years. It includes systems of checks and balances — ensuring that no one, not even a president, has unbridled power — and a deep belief that no one can be above the law. It also includes protections of the rights of minorities, and a Congress and a healthy news media holding everyone to account. But it also embraces fair representation, because a system of voter suppression, gerrymandering and money-dominated politics, where the views of the minority can dominate the majority, is antidemocratic.

Read more here.

Apr 25, 2019

New Consensus

“The World Needs a New Worldview.” Right on.

A truly beautiful world is possible—one without poverty or pollution, and with prosperity and dignity for everyone. Humanity has everything it needs to build that world in a single generation: billions of creative, hard working people, technology that already can allow us to make a comfortable living safely and sustainably, and unlimited energy from the sun that we can now harness to power that technology.

So begins the opening statement from New Consensus, a bold new group that’s helping to spark the New Green Deal. Read more here.

And check out their reading list here.

Apr 24, 2019

Solar power + people power

Bill McKibben strikes a hopeful note:

We have two relatively new inventions that could prove decisive to solving global warming before it destroys the planet. One is the solar panel, and the other is the nonviolent movement.

Read more here.

Mar 16, 2019

Youth climate action

Historic youth action from around the world:

See more here.

Feb 13, 2019

Economists for Inclusive Prosperity

From the website of a new group committed to development of policies for inclusive prosperity:

There is considerable ferment in economics that is often not visible to outsiders. At the same time, the sociology of the profession – career incentives, norms, socialization patterns – often mitigates against adequate engagement with the world of policy, especially on the part of younger academic economists…

While prosperity is the traditional concern of economists, the “inclusive” modifier demands both that we consider the interest of all people, not simply the average person, and that we consider prosperity broadly, including non-pecuniary sources of well-being, from health to climate change to political rights.

Read more here and also here.

Jan 8, 2019

Passing the buck

A side benefit of moving to decentralized, renewable electricity would be getting out from under these guys:

As California’s deadliest wildfire was consuming the town of Paradise in November, some of the state’s top power company officials and a dozen legislators were at an annual retreat at the Fairmont Kea Lani resort on Maui. In the course of four days, they discussed wildfires — and how much responsibility the utilities deserve for the devastation, if any.

It is an issue of increasing urgency as more fires are traced to equipment owned by California’s investor-owned utilities. The largest, Pacific Gas and Electric, could ultimately have to pay homeowners and others an estimated $30 billion for causing fires over the last two years. The most devastating of those, the Camp Fire, destroyed thousands of homes in Paradise and killed at least 86 people.

Realizing that their potential fire liability is large enough to bankrupt them, the utility companies are spending tens of millions of dollars on lobbying and campaign contributions. Their goal: a California law that would allow them to pass on the cost of wildfires to their customers in the form of higher electricity rates.

Read more here and here.

Plus update on the saga here.

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