Advancing democratic alternatives to oligarchy:
Extreme inequality undermines democracy, the economy, public health and culture. Concentrated wealth translates into political power to further shape elections, legislative priorities and rules in favor of global corporations and the already wealthy. This in turn leads to the kind of economic distortions that caused the 2008 financial collapse. In the lead up to the collapse, the bottom 70 percent of the U.S. population responded to stagnant wages by borrowing beyond their means, while the top 1 percent engaged in reckless speculation on highly rated but essentially worthless securities in financial markets freed from essential regulation and public oversight.
In “Capitalism Unmasked,” Econ4′s joint project with AlterNet, Paul Davidson tours a fairytale world:
Conservative economists and their friends like to trot out a mythical being whenever they want to make arguments that favor an economy built for the wealthy at the expense of ordinary people. This imaginary being, known as the Confidence Fairy, is only happy when capitalists are given free rein to do whatever they want even if it brings us to the brink of a global economic meltdown.
Read his essay here.
In the second installment of “Capitalism Unmasked,” Econ4’s joint project with AlterNet, Doug Smith lays out the difference between profiting from market successes and profiting from market failures:
Capitalists can pick between two responses to markets that are failing. They can bet their capital on fixing them – on bringing more good things to life. Or, they can do everything possible to extract more and more profit by extending, expanding and exacerbating the failures.
Read more here.
Jerry Friedman recounts the gripping story of the greatest heist ever in the first installment of “Capitalism Unmasked,” Econ4’s joint project with AlterNet:
Elites say that we need inequality to encourage the rich to invest and the creative to invent. That’s working out well — for 1% pooches.
Read all about it here.
Just beneath the surface of traditional media attention, something vital has been gathering force and is about to explode into public consciousness.
Read about it here.
Nobel laureate Joe Stiglitz defines rent-seeking as “using political and economic power to get a larger share of the national pie, rather than to grow the national pie” – and he says that America today has become a rent-seeking society. Hear him interviewed here (the 7:40-8:55 interval for the rent-seeking passage), discussing on his new book, The Price of Inequality.
New from the National Priorities Project:
The only thing stronger than money in politics is an informed electorate.
Find the report here.
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.
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.