Quiz for the day: Who said this?
The 85 richest people in the world, who could fit into a single London double-decker, control as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population– that is 3.5 billion people….
A greater concentration of wealth could—if unchecked—even undermine the principles of meritocracy and democracy. It could undermine the principle of equal rights proclaimed in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Pope Francis recently put this in stark terms when he called increasing inequality “the root of social evil”.
Some of the greatest problems, still outstanding today, lay with the so-called too-big-to-fail firms. In the decade prior to the crisis, the balance sheets of the world’s largest banks increased by two to four-fold. With rising size came rising risk—in the form of lower capital, less stable funding, greater complexity, and more trading.
This kind of capitalism was more extractive than inclusive. The size and complexity of the megabanks meant that, in some ways, they could hold policymakers to ransom. The implicit subsidy they derived from being too-big-too-fail came from their ability to borrow more cheaply than smaller banks—magnifying risk and undercutting competition.
Answer: IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde, in a speech to a conference on “inclusive capitalism” on May 27. See the transcript of her speech here. For more on changing spirits of the times, see here.
Quiz for today: who said this?
The absence of effective State, and, especially, national, restraint upon unfair money-getting has tended to create a small class of enormously wealthy and economically powerful men, whose chief object is to hold and increase their power.
Answer: Teddy Roosevelt in a 1910 speech in Osawatomie, Kansas. Paul Krugman quotes Roosevelt to make the case that taxing the rich to safeguard democracy is as American as apple pie. Krugman also quotes Irving Fisher’s 1919 presidential address to the American Economics Association, warning of the dangers of “an undemocratic concentration of wealth.”
“How,” Krugman asks,” did such views not only get pushed out of the mainstream, but come to be considered illegitimate?”
Good question. Krugman’s conclusion is right on the money:
[T]he demonization of anyone who talks about the dangers of concentrated wealth is based on a misreading of both the past and the present. Such talk isn’t un-American; it’s very much in the American tradition.
Read his column here.
From a description of the upcoming New Economies Conference in Jackson:
Jackson, Mississippi like most of the metropolitan centers throughout the country needs to broaden its economy to confront the challenge of globalization, address its social ills, and revitalize itself. To address the growing crises of economic collapse, social inequality and environmental degradation, the broadened economy must diversify itself to include various forms of ownership and wealth creation models that fully include the vast majority of the population. The broadened economy must include economic democracy, worker ownership, food sovereignty, new models of home ownership, and sustainable production and distribution.
The New Economies Conference will focus on how the City of Jackson can and will start building the city of the future today through the inclusion of cooperatives and other forms of wealth creation based on the principles of solidarity, participatory democracy, and economic and social equity.
Read more here.
For a profile of Jackson mayor Chokwe Lumumaba, who passed away this week, see here.
Read about the connections Lumumba drew between civil rights and immigrant rights here.
See Democracy Now!’s portrait of Lumamba here.
Sam Bowles and Arjun Jayadev reveal a dubious distinction of the American economy:
Another dubious first for America: We now employ as many private security guards as high school teachers — over one million of them, or nearly double their number in 1980.
And that’s just a small fraction of what we call “guard labor.” In addition to private security guards, that means police officers, members of the armed forces, prison and court officials, civilian employees of the military, and those producing weapons: a total of 5.2 million workers in 2011. That is a far larger number than we have of teachers at all levels.
Read more here.
Econ4′s Gar Alperovitz on building the new economy from the bottom up:
Deepening economic and social pain are producing the kinds of conditions from which various new forms of democratization—of ownership, wealth and institutions—are beginning to emerge. The challenge is to develop a broad strategy that not only ends the downward spiral but also gives rise to something different: steadily changing who actually owns the system, beginning at the bottom and working up.
Read more here.
Resources for democratic, community-based economic development from the Democracy Collaborative:
Here’s the trailer for the new film “Inequality of All,” featuring Robert Reich:
Read more about the film and the facts behind it here.
Econ4′s James Boyce on how to translate good principles into good practice:
From a wide-ranging interview with Noam Chomsky:
[O]ne of the main problems for students today — a huge problem — is sky-rocketing tuitions. Why do we have tuitions that are completely out-of-line with other countries, even with our own history? In the 1950s the United States was a much poorer country than it is today, and yet higher education was … pretty much free, or low fees or no fees for huge numbers of people. There hasn’t been an economic change that’s made it necessary, now, to have very high tuitions, far more than when we were a poor country.
Read Chomsky’s breakdown of the rich-country-indebted-student paradox here.
Advance praise for What Then Must We Do? Straight Talk About the Next American Revolution (Chelsea Green, April 2013), by Econ4′s Gar Alperovitz:
“Gar Alperovitz’s new book is so plain-spoken and accessible that it takes a moment to appreciate the magnitude of his accomplishment. After examining new patterns of positive change emerging in America today—including many undernoticed changes that involve democratizing the ownership of wealth—he develops a brilliant strategy for the type of transformative change that can lead America from decline to rebirth. In giving a sense of strategic direction and honest possibility to the call for a new economy, Alperovitz has made an enormous contribution exactly where it is most needed.”
—James Gustave Speth, author of America the Possible: Manifesto for a New Economy
“In this important new book, Gar Alperovitz is telling us there’s something happening here in corporate-driven America, be it social enterprise, community land trusts, worker-owned businesses, or employee stock ownership plans. We all know that the free-market economic system no longer works for the vast majority of citizens and Alperovitz is showing us that there is a better, equally American way, to spread the wealth and put more people to work, while making the nation a safer and healthier place to live. This is not an utopian fantasy or a call for social engineering, but a plain-spoken and easy-to-absorb analysis by one of our leading economists of what’s gone wrong and how to make it better.”
—Seymour M. Hersh, The New Yorker