Music

Rom-Comm Mixtape

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 20/08/2018 - 2:37pm in

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Music

cover imageAvailable on: Spotify | Apple Music | Amazon | Google Play | Bandcamp & YouTube
Rom-Comm Mixtape is a new experimental artistic venture. A collection of songs and sounds that in the past year have been a personal expression of life and tribulation.

The project was created using nothing but open source software and tools, right down to the operating system on my laptop, Ubuntu Studio. It's also released under a creative commons license, which means it is free to use for your own projects.

It's a feeling that takes me back to the origins of creating music I remember. When you come up with an idea and build on it to capture a feeling as you go.

-Tom

New song & Patreon

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 03/08/2018 - 1:55am in

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General, Music, song

Hello there, after several years of procrastinating, I’ve started a Patreon. It’s a website where you can sponsor independent creators and get access to exclusive content and stuff. I’ll be posting songs I’m working on as well as writing as much as people want to hear about them as I try to finish the next album.

The first song’s about psychedelic mushrooms as antidepressants. It’s called Fun Guy — I threw it on Youtube so I could maybe lure you into sponsoring me on the Patreon, let’s see if it works:

 

The government is not a household and imports are still a benefit

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 01/08/2018 - 6:14pm in

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Economics, Music

It is Wednesday and so a shorter blog post today while I spend more time writing other things. But there was one issue that was raised in the comments in the last week following my blog post – Build it in Britain is just sensible logic (July 26, 2018) – that I thought warranted attention. The government is not a household is a core Modern Monetary Theory (MMT) proposition because it separates the currency issuer from the currency user and allows us to appreciate the constraints that each has on its spending capacities. In the case of a household, there are both real and financial resource constraints which limit its spending and necessitate strategies being put in place to facilitate that spending (getting income, running down savings, borrowing, selling assets). In the case of a currency-issuing government the only constraints beyond the political are the available real resource that are for sale in that currency. Beyond that, the government sector thus assumes broad responsibilities as the currency issuer, which are not necessarily borne by individual consumers. Its objectives are different. Which brings trade into the picture. Another core MMT proposition is that imports are a benefit and exports are a cost. So why would I support Jeremy Corbyn’s Build it in Britain policy, which is really an import competing strategy? Simple, the government is not a household.

The trilogy of blog posts is my most recent discussion of issues relating to trade:

1. Trade and finance mysteries – Part 1 (May 8, 2018).

2. Trade and finance mysteries – Part 2 (May 9, 2018).

3. A surplus of trade discussions (May 23, 2018).

Household consumers are users of the currency and aim to use their disposable incomes to create well-being, primarily for themselves and their families.

We exhibit generosity by extending our spending capacities to others when we give gifts.

But our aims are to get the best deal we can in our transactions. That means we like goods and services that satisfy our quality standards at the best price possible.

Which means that we will be somewhat indifferent to geography. If local suppliers are expensive and imported goods and services are cheaper, then as long as quality considerations are broadly met, we will purchase the imported commodity and be better off in a material sense.

If other nations are willing to send more goods and services to us than they get back in return then the real terms of trade are in our favour.

Exports require we give up our use of those real resources while imports mean we deprive other nations of the use of their resources.

There are nuances obviously.

A nation with lots of minerals (Australia) may not feel it is too much of a ‘cost’ to send boatloads of primary commodities to Japan or China.

We also individually might ascribe to broader goals in our purchasing decisions, although the evidence for this is weak.

For example, some of us believe that imports are only a benefit if they come from nations that treat their workers reasonably (no sweat shops, killing trade unionists etc) and do not ravage the natural environment in the process of producing the goods.

I would guess those concerns do not dominate our decision making generally because if they did China would not have huge export surpluses.

But there are nuances.

However, a government is not a household. It has a wider remit (objectives) than a household and must consider a broad range of concerns when it uses its currency-issuing capacity to shift real resources (as goods and services) from the non-government sector to the government sector to fulfill its elected mandate.

In that sense, imports remain a benefit but the broader concerns make the net decision more complex than it is for the non-government sector.

The government must consider regional disparities. When a household is making a decision to purchase a good or service, what is happening elsewhere in the nation might not rank very high in the decision.

The government must consider how best to maintain full employment. A household is really only concerned with their own employment although that doesn’t preclude us being generally concerned with high unemployment rates.

But ‘buy local’ campaigns typically do not work when they try to steer household consumption expenditure.

The government can always maintain full employment through its fiscal spending decisions. We know that because it can always purchase the services of all idle labour that wants to work and receive payment in the currency of issue.

So from that starting point, there is no question that mass unemployment is a policy choice not some uncontrollable outcome of a ‘market’.

In that context, the challenge for government is to work out how to frame the spending capacity to get the best employment outcomes.

* Direct public employment – that is, obvious.

* Subsidy of local non-government firms – that is, operate by lowering the unit costs for firms to render them profitable when they otherwise would not be.

* ‘Build it in Britain’ – that is, use procurement policies to sustain sales for local firms rather than subsidise their costs.

None of these full employment strategies negate the insight that imports are a benefit to a nation.

But the government has to consider broader concerns than just getting a good or service at the cheapest ‘market’ price.

There are more considerations but that is how we can understand this issue.

What I was listening to today

More on the John Mayall theme, although in this case, Mayall had little to do with the genius of this track.

I have listed this track before but it is on my frequent play list and never stops amazing me.

It is from one of my favourite guitar players – Peter Green – who recorded this after replacing Eric Clapton as the guitar player in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers.

The whole album from John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers – A Hard Road – which was recorded in 1966 is exceptional, but this track – The Supernatural – is one of the best guitar tracks of all time.

Without doubt.

The control he gets on his reverb and sustain is something else.

2:57 minutes of pure tone!

Event – Launch of Anti-Privatisation Book – Sold Off Sold Out, Sydney, August 2

I will be speaking in Sydney tomorrow night (August 2, 2018) to launch the new edition of Sold Off Sold Out – which exposes the costs of privatisation in Australia.

The event will run from 18:30 to 20:00 and will be held at the Information and Cultural Exchange (ICE) centre located at 8 Victoria Road, Parramatta, NSW 2150.

The promotion page says:

Over the past 30 years, there has been a massive sell-off of public assets to private corporations right across Australia. For the public there is no upside. We have been robbed in multiple ways by privatisations.

You can find details – HERE.

I look forward to seeing Sydney readers at the event.

Event – The second international MMT Conference in New York – September 28-30, 2018

The second international MMT Conference will be held in New York between September 28-30, 2018.

I will be speaking and most (if not all) the founding MMT group will be in attendance, contributing in one way or another.

The Conference Home Page has been launched and you can register for the conference through that page.

It will be great to see as many of you as possible at that event.

In the two weeks following, I will be giving talks in:

1. Galway – Wednesday, October 3, 2018.

2. Dublin – Thursday, October 4, 2018.

3. London – Friday, October 5, 2018 – Launch of the new Gower Initiative for Monetary Studies.

4. Lisbon – Sunday, October 7, 2018.

5. Glasgow – Wednesday, October 10, 2018.

6. Wurzburg – Saturday, October 13, 2018.

I will have more details of that lecture tour in due course. More dates might be added once confirmations are made.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2018 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

The plaintive, I just want to do my art!

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 25/07/2018 - 6:44pm in

Today is Wednesday and only a few observations today as I want more time to write other things. Last night, I gave a talk at a Politics-in-the-Pub event in Newcastle, which is a monthly gathering held at a local hotel and attracts an audience of around 80 people or thereabouts. These are people who purport to be active politically and progressive in bent. The topic was Universal Basic Income and Automation, although it was really a general discussion of UBI, and, with my appearance, a comparison with the Job Guarantee. It was a revealing evening really because the discussion indicated that major policy issues are debated in public and among progressive people without the provenance of ideas being understood or how things fit together in a system. Quite dispiriting really. So I thought I would explore the appeal – I just want to do my art, which was one statement last night in support of a UBI.

My career in self-published poetry

Here is my first self-published poem:

I

William Mitchell, July 25, 2018.

Analysis

I want to receive a guaranteed minimum income for that exploration into the depth of creativity, to help me sleep for the rest of the day.

Yes, l’art pour l’art

Truth in the single word.

An autotelic excursion into the self.

How can that not be more valuable than working in a state-funded job helping aged people deal with their lives or providing contributions to society via environmental care work or whatever?

How does it not justify me being able to access the food produced by hard-working and low-paid farm labourers?

How does it not justify being able to buy clothes produced by low-paid factory workers?

And so it goes.

The famous Robert Owen campaign “Eight hours labour, eight hours recreation, eight hours rest” doesn’t cut it anymore – I just want to do my art!

Self. The neoliberal icon.

There is no collective. Just me and my art.

“I just want to my art” (quote from last night).

And while I am entranced with my own poem, just make sure that the rest of you go to work to produce things that will allow me to eat, have a roof over my head, drive my car, sip coffee in street side cafes, buy artistic supplies, guitar strings, new amplifiers – never mind that people have to work to provide those goods and services.

No, I just want to do my art!

Margaret Thatcher declared Society was dead. And with that the neoliberals went crazy pursuing an operational meaning of that declaration, false in construct though it was.

So all these individuals emerged thinking that they were the centre of the universe until, of course, they needed others.

Downplay Society and the need to make any contribution to it, on the one hand; but then put the hand out to Society when you need to eat.

But, my art, it might be highly marketable and I can use the UBI to further my entrepreneurial ambitions. I heard that last night.

Oh yes, all these budding entrepreneurs just needing some time and public support to unleash their innovative souls onto the market.

It sounded to be a similar argument that the banksters make in times of crisis and plenty. Leave us alone, deregulate, get out of our business so we can be entrepreneurs and privatise the returns, but when we f*@k up, we demand you socialise the losses.

The UBI ‘I just want to do my art’ entrepreneurs sound just like that.

Aspirational petty capitalists who want public support just in case they don’t cut it in the profit-making world.

As to art for art’s sake, I prefer the interpretation of the French writer who wrote in her letters to Alexandra Saint-Jean in on April 19, 1872:

L’art pour l’art est un vain mot. L’art pour le vrai, l’art pour le beau et le bon, voilà la religion que je cherche.

The English-version is available HERE (the reference is at top of page 242).

Of course, this view is highly contested and the ‘I just want to do my art irrespective of whether anyone else benefits from it’ gang, would prefer the 1876 offering by the the French poet Théophile Gautier in his work – Mademoiselle de Maupin:

Il n’y a de vraiment beau que ce qui ne peut servir à rien; tout ce qui est utile est laid, car c’est l’expression de quelque besoin, et ceux de l’homme sont ignobles et dégoûtants, comme sa pauvre et infirme nature …

Or any utilitarian concept of art is wrong because beauty is not useful and useful is ugly, as it reflects the venal, selfish motives of people.

Beauty is sufficient in its own existence, like my new one-word poem “. Not!

The command of facts at the event was also missing in many instances.

For example, one hostile audience member (hostile to a Job Guarantee), who continually interrupted claimed that the recent Finnish UBI experiment was going for 10 years and was already successful.

I had pointed out that the program, which began in early 2017, will terminate at the end of 2018 because the Finnish government had received considerable opposition from citizens who resented people receiving public handouts when they could work to receive an income.

We haven’t got analytical data yet from the experiment (to be released next year) but the decision to prematurely stop funding the scheme is evidence that the Finnish government did not believe they could sustain it politically.

I would note that the Finnish experiment, whatever the final statistics tell us, does not tell us what the consequences of a true UBI would be – it was too limited, mean-spirited and short-term.

But even at the small scale that was implemented, the public hostility was significant, particularly among trade unions and social democrats (for different reasons).

At first it was reported that 70 per cent of the public were in favour (theoretically) but when told that income taxes would rise to “pay for it” (Finland doesn’t have its own currency), only 35 per cent remained in favour at the inception (Source).

I also heard last night stuff about the Job Guarantee being just about forcing people to take ‘shit jobs’ and it was just ‘Top down control’ and all the rest of those arguments that seem to recycle every few months whenever employment guarantees are proposed.

This cycle continues, unabated, even when proponents point out clearly the falsehoods in the claims that drive it. Denial is strong to evidence.

I noted that we are compelled to stop at red lights as part of being members of a community. Mr Finnish-expert piped up and claimed people didn’t stop at red lights. Maybe, but most do accept the ‘top down control’ as part of membership to a greater collective.

The Job Guarantee is coercive but so is life in a world of others.

Many attendees last night wanted to deny the fact that the UBI was fundamentally an individual concept that fitted perfectly with the neoliberal elevation of the self and its denial and active attacks on the collective.

There was a self-styled socialist trade union member on the panel with me. He barely talked about unemployment and the need to create jobs so that workers would be aligned more strongly against capital.

He thought UBI was a good idea and even though it has neoliberal overtones it could work to help people.

I thought it was simply unbelievable that a trade union official would advocate a policy that basically amounted to a surrender to one of the most basic neoliberal ideas – that unemployment is inevitable and the government can do nothing to arrest it.

So progressives get duped into believing that governments can do nothing about unemployment, that robots are marching down the streets absorbing all our work, and that the only solution is for government to hand out cash to those affected via a UBI.

The progressive challenge should be to demand governments use their fiscal capacity to generate sufficient jobs, given that most of the unemployed indicate, when asked that they want work not idleness.

The trade union guy then waxed lyrical, sounding progressive to himself I am sure, by saying that we need to “tax the rich to fund the UBI”.

Yep, we got onto that one.

So, the rich are so important that without their cash the government is unable to provide services to the rest of us. That is what this narrative purports. A redux of the Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged setting where the top-end-of-town have all the means (and create them) and the rest of us are just parasites living on the largesse and generosity of the rich.

Ever heard of a currency-issuing government? They issue their own currency. They spend that currency into existence. They have no financial constraints.

I pointed out that we might want to tax the rich to reduce their power or to stop excessive consumption or other purchasing capacities, but we should never construct an argument that the government needs their money in order to fund a UBI or any other spending initiative.

The ‘tax the rich’ narrative is so entrenched in progressive Left thinking and is like blinkers on a horse that stops them seeing the real options.

The inflation argument in favour of the Job Guarantee and against the UBI is difficult to articulate in this sort of gathering but I did anyway.

The point is that policies interact within an economic system with consequences.

Most UBI proponents have no clear understanding of how price stability can be achieved – for example, understanding that the government has two options: (a) run an unemployment buffer stock to suppress wage demands; or (b) run a buffer stock of jobs where the government buys any idle labour that wants to work at a fixed price.

Some in the audience had clearly never considered any of the inflationary aspects of this debate.

Once you understand them, then you are left with the realisation that if a government chooses the UBI path, then they are operating in a NAIRU (unemployed buffer stock) world and that while the ‘I only want to do my art’ gang might receive their UBI, workers who had eschewed the UBI, will be made unemployed, if spending pressures build up in the economy and the government seeks to stabilise inflation via policy tightening.

In other words, unemployment continues to be used a policy tool rather than being seen as a crucial policy target. The UBI fits nicely, in other words, into the neoliberal world.

Progressives should never surrender to this view and, instead should always push for full employment.

Oh and when I returned home last night, I read that the Job Guarantee is, apparently, just a reductionism.

Meaning it reduces a complexity to some simple fundamental constituents.

Sure enough.

Mass unemployment is the result of insufficient jobs due to insufficient spending.

Want to reduce it?

Create some jobs.

Who might do that?

The non-government sector might but the evidence that they are not is manifested by the mass unemployment. So QED there.

Who else might?

Well, there is only one other sector left – the government sector.

Can it create jobs?

Immediately, upon an announcement by the Prime Minister or whoever.

How?

Go on national TV on night and announce that the income support agencies are closing and anybody who wants a job at a socially-inclusive minimum wage can go down to the same office tomorrow morning and sign up. Wages start flowing immediately even if work takes a bit longer to assign.

That is reductionism.

The commentator was intending the description to an insult – to make out how crude I was in my thinking, so lacking in erudition, so simplistic.

But, in fact, it is a spot on assessment.

If you have people seeking work, then it is an very easy problem to solve – create the work. There is no shortage of productive things to do in Society. The unemployment is because there is a shortage of funding to undertake those productive endeavours.

The government has all the funds it needs to overcome that shortage.

The fact that mass unemployment remains is because the government has chosen for political reasons to not exercise its capacity and create the jobs.

It is an expression of ideology not complexity.

And before we get too complex here is my second self-published poem:

I am

Go figure how deep and profound and beautiful that is! Wow! On Fire!

And here is someone who has worked hard to create beautiful (utilitarian) art for all of us

Yes, the hardworking John Mayall.

This short song – Broken Wings – was Track 5, side B on the The Blues Alone album, which John Mayall released in November 1967 on the Ace of Clubs Records label.

This was the first album I ever bought in my early teenage years with my paper round money. The Ace of Clubs label was great because they were (from memory) $1.99 instead of the usual price for a long playing disk of $4.95 (Lloyd – is that correct?).

The album followed pretty well straight after he released Crusade, his third studio effort which marked the appearance of Mick Taylor (just before he took up with the Rolling Stones).

Mayall had a habit of falling out with his guitar players or bassists – Eric Clapton left the Bluesbreakers, then his replacement, the mighty Peter Green left, bass player John McVie left, and then Mick Taylor. Quite a lineup. Fortunately the dissidents (Green and McVie) formed the first version of Fleetwood Mac and we know what that produced before the band turned to pop.

On this album, John Mayall was so hardworking that he played all the instruments barring the drums, which were provided by the magnificent Keef Hartley whose own recording career is worth getting acquainted with.

Not only did John Mayall play most of the instruments, he also designed the sleeve notes and cover art for the album, which featured himself playing what I believe was a home made guitar.

So on The Blues Alone he could only really argue with himself.

I loved this track (still do) and fell in love with Hammond B3 organs and always wanted one except I never had a place big enough to store it and guitars took my attention away.

Anyway, mellow out and enjoy the artistry.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2018 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

A Brief History of Folsom Prison

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 23/07/2018 - 5:00pm in


California’s second penitentiary defined American incarceration for more than a century. And no figure has been more closely tied to it than Johnny Cash.

Incongruous Beauty; on fate

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 21/07/2018 - 2:22am in

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aesthetics, art, Music

 

Earlier in the week we went to watch Mozarts Don Giovanni at Covent Garden. The production was cleverly staged and, on the whole, well-paced. Much to my surprise, I was familiar with all the tunes, but not the story. I suddenly realized I had never seen it before. It has a much better libretto (by Lorenzo Da Ponte) than most Mozart's operas, full of clever puns and situational comedy, social commentary, and even almost psychological depth--perhaps because Don Giovanni is a shameless womanizer, the persistent strain of misogyny, which mars so many of his operas -- as the movie, Amadeus, notes -- is much less present. (Donna Anna performed by Rachel Willis-Sørensen is, in fact, an interesting character who evolves through the opera).

Half way the first act Don Giovanni takes advantage of his noble status to interrupt a joyous wedding among peasants. The whole scene has strong echoes of the so-called Droit du seigneur, the right of the noble man to have sex with his virgin peasants on their wedding night. (The idea is the driving force of Braveheart.) At first, Zerlina* is horrified, but under the influence of his flattery and her own wishes for a better life, against her better judgement -- she understands the Don's intentions for her are not noble -- the idea of a new beginning starts to grip her. (A very good version of the whole scene sung and acted by Rodney Gilfry and Liliana Nikiteanu can be seen here; see also an appropriately creepy one performed Bryn Terfel and Hei-Kyung Hong conducted by James Levine.

"La ci darem la mano" [There I will give you (my) hand"] is one of the most famous duets; it has a honey-sweet melody. The night I saw it, Chen Reiss and Mariusz Kwiecień sung it with achingly beautiful, haunting intensity. Unlike most versions, which emphasize the closing sequence (Andiam-let's go!), Kwiecień lingered on  the key line, Io cangierò tua sorte.--I will change your fate. 

There is quite a bit of art that is intended to beautiful and once firmly thought beautiful and great, and where (say) because of changing sensibilities the aesthetic experience is marred or worse, because what it portrays is not at all lovely; where if there is an aesthetic experience at all it's something of an antiquarian interest. [Fill in your favorite example from, say,  the history of painting.] If such art still seduces, it's because of a self-conscious bracketing by the viewer.

Zerlina's duet with Don Giovanni is not like that. Before and after, we're not made to forget that Don Giovanni's actions are immoral and also an abuse of the very idea of nobility (and part of the abuse is Don Giovanni's infection by all-too-many-modern ideas--book-keeping, his sensual materialism, his courageous rejection of the gods, his willingness to embrace liberty in which high and low are mixed, etc.). Mozart confronts us with the art of the flattering demagogue, who tells is what we want to hear. And as Mozart shows, this can be cripplingly beautiful.** (Of course, eventually, Zerlinia's akrasia gives way to what she knows can't be true, innocent love.)

The duet is, thus, disturbing not just because we are all, in principle like Zerlina, capable of being seduced -- and the experience of watching the duet, thus, enacts what it represents -- but also because Mozart lets us steal here a glimpse of his suspicion of his great craft and, thereby, change your fate.

 

*Later in the opera, to console Masetto with his humiliations, she offers herself up to be punished by him;  this makes his humiliation worse, and he refuses this solution.

**Near the climax of the opera, while Don Giovanni is anxiously waiting his mysterious dinner guest, Mozart allows himself to make fun of the capacity of his own musical art of making light of awful situations.

Limits to government spending are not determined by private bond markets

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 18/07/2018 - 5:11pm in

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Music

Wednesday and a relatively short blog post after two rather long posts in the preceding two days. The first topic concerns the limits to government spending. The second brief topic reports on research where it was found that the music of AC-DC confounds Lady Beetles and soybean aphids. Who would have thought! Which was by far the most interesting research paper I have read this week after dealing with the likes of Stuart Holland on Monday and Tuesday. And then some music from around the world to smooth out the day.

Limits to government spending

There was a tweet being retweeted like there was no tomorrow last week which linked to an article in the Financial Times (July 14, 2018) – Fiscal hawks’ tales of doom do not fly with the young.

The article had a picture of the latest progressive political star – Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez with the caption that she:

… backs the view that restraints on a government’s spending are primarily set by the amount it can borrow without fuelling inflation.

Progressive types then thought it was useful to retweet this incessantly for a few days.

My response – I certainly hope that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez does not back that construction of the limits on spending for a currency-issuing government.

And I certainly hope that progressives do not embrace it either.

Why?

It is fundamentally incorrect and just reframes the way neoliberals think and uses their sort of language.

The article was questioning the:

… warnings from some fiscal hawks about how financial markets would be overwhelmed by the wave of government bonds needed to fund the stimulus.

It noted that the evidence has not supported the fiscal hawk scaremongering.

It asks: “Where are the storied bond vigilantes?”

It also correctly notes that:

Because the US borrows in its own currency, warnings about too much Treasury issuance are in reality about two spectres: harmful increases in inflation, or a dose of political mismanagement so severe it would lead to a technical default by the US.

The “technical default” refers to the ridiculous process where the US Congress approves increases in the ‘debt ceiling’. The theatre around that process might one day see the US government ‘run out of money’ because the politicians have legally forced it to.

Of course, that process doesn’t negate the fact that the US government can never run out of US dollars if it doesn’t want to. We cannot say the same thing about, say, a Eurozone Member State government.

And it says that the deficit hawks:

… have now educated a generation in the risks of dogmatic opposition to government debt, and made austerity a more tangible threat to young Americans than harmful inflation. Small wonder then that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the self-described democratic socialist, was recently nominated to represent New York in Congress.

I would not have used the word “education” to describe the propaganda pumped out by the hawks. Explicit lies are not education. Education is about enlightenment not deception.

Which is why the vast majority of students who undertake macroeconomics in universities around the world are not receiving an education. They are being indoctrinated with a particular ideological frame.

The FT article then goes off the rails when it says that:

She has backed the increasingly popular view that restraints on a government’s spending are primarily set by the amount it can borrow in its own currency without fuelling inflation — not its annual tax revenues.

Some economists may find this perspective uncomfortably liberal, but it is not necessarily inaccurate. It acknowledges global demand for US Treasuries, which is a more honest depiction of the government’s finances than a Treasury that is only capable of spending the amount it raises through tax revenues in any particular year.

She being Ocasio-Cortez.

The view might be popular and a challenge to the mindless mainstream economists (the hawks) but it is also incorrect.

It is also not a view that progressives should be propagating as it operates within a neoliberal frame.

Why?

Lying behind the view, implicit yet fundamental, is the myth that the US government (or any currency-issuing government) has to issue debt in order to spend.

The corollary, which is the proposition that progressives are meant to “back”, is that as long as the private bond markets are receptive to that debt issuance, the government can spend.

The related (and final) proposition in this flawed logic stream is that under those circumstances, the problem government spending has to address is its inflationary consequences, which become the limits on the deficits.

It sounds – sort of intuitively reasonable – to a lay person.

But intuition and common sense is a dangerous guide to follow in these matters.

I discussed the perils in this blog post – When common sense fails

The reality is as follows:

1. A currency-issuing government is only limited in its nominal spending capacity by the real resources (goods and services) that are available for sale in that currency.

2. Such a government can always purchase anything that is for sale in that currency, including all idle labour, irrespective of whether the inflation rate is 1 per cent or 10 per cent and independent of its past fiscal balance outcomes.

3. The requirement that deficit spending be matched by debt-issuance to the private sector is purely voluntary.

4. The government spending, in fact, provides the net financial assets, which allows the non-government sector to purchase the debt.

5. It is true that accelerating inflation might emerge before all available resources are fully utilised as a result of sectoral bottlenecks.

6. That is why, the government should introduce a Job Guarantee, which allows the government to guarantee ‘loose’ full employment using automatic stabilisers by purchasing at fixed rather than market prices. In other words, it can bring all labour into productive use without accelerating inflation.

7. Hitting an inflationary wall does not mean the government is unable to spend further in nominal terms. Financially, the government could just keep putting out orders for goods and services and chase the market price upwards, with hyperinflation the ultimate result if this behaviour persisted.

8. Such a strategy would be futile though.

You can see in those eight points, I have broken the nexus between spending, debt-issuance and inflation.

It should be further recognised that all spending (government and non-government) carries an inflation risk.

The following blog post considers some of these issues (among many others) – Real resource constraints and fiscal policy design (June 21, 2018).

AC-DC and the Lady Beetles

Some biologists from the US Mississippi State University published an article last week (July 10, 2018) – Testing the AC/DC hypothesis: Rock and roll is noise pollution and weakens a trophic cascade – which sought to study the impact of “Anthropogenic sound” on the environments using “lady beetles, soybean aphids, and soybean plants” as the “model for studying the direct and indirect effects of global change on food webs”.

Hmmm.

Here is a press report on the study – Rock and roll IS noise pollution, Mississippi State study shows – if you don’t feel like reading the scientific paper linked to above.

The scientists found that AC-DC’s null hypothesis that “Rock and Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution” could not be sustained.

Instead, the alternative was found to be statistically significant.

The researchers subjected an ecosystem of lady beetles, aphids and soybean plants to around the clock (“Shook all night long”) “rock music, country music and more conventional urban sounds to test the effects of noise on an environment.”

The ladybirds became “less effective predators, which resulted in higher aphid populations and lower biomass for soybean plants” when AC-DC was blasting out.

But just before you start calling for bans, the researchers also found that tractor noise had the same effect.

And here it is. From the 1981 album – Back in BlackRock And Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution.

AC/DC alas, sadly, without Bon Scott and, more recently, Malcom Young, not to mention the retirement of bass player Cliff Williams and the criminal complexities surrounding drummer Phil Rudd.

Music from around the world …

I love Playing for Change organisation which cruises the world recording musicians and puts them together playing great songs.

This version of the Bob Dylan composition – All Along the Watchtower

In this version you get Lakota singers and dancers, sitar player in India, various hand drummers, guitar players from here and there, violin player from the US and Lebanon, and more.

And the Doors drummer John Densmore pops up playing his drums at Venice Beach.

One of the better covers of this song.

And here is the best version from one of the best albums ever – Electric Ladyland – recorded by Jimi Hendrix in 1967 and released in 1968 on Reprise.

I bought this album as an import (there was one shop in Melbourne that sold imports at the time) while still a teenager. I still play it.

The 15 minute version of Voodoo Chile with Stevie Winwood on organ (recorded live in New York) is without equal.

The pop music reviewers of the day didn’t like the album – but I considered they just weren’t ready for its genius.

I have been listening to this album today while typing.

I would also add that the reference being “all along” a “Watchtower” confounded people as to what Dylan meant, but that is another story.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2018 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

New Release from Philosopher-Musician Olúfẹmi O. Táíwò

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 14/07/2018 - 11:24am in

Tags 

Music, philosophy

Looking for some good music? There’s a new EP out from Olúfẹmi O. Táíwò, a philosopher who just earned his PhD at UCLA and is starting as an assistant professor at Georgetown University this fall.

The EP, From Spain With Love, is an eclectic mix of hip-hop and jazz-rock with Iberian influences. Check out the blazing “The Last Standing” or the boldly re-imagined modern jazz standard “Spain“, for starters. The delicate Spanish guitar, pulsing beat, and impressive flow of words makes for some seriously innovative and enjoyable music.

From Spain With Love by FemiTáíwò dabbled in music a little as a kid, but started taking it more seriously in college at Indiana University. He describes his musical style as “cross African diasporic” with the Iberian touches being something unique to this release.

I asked him to name some of his influences. This is what he called the “short” list: “Stevie Wonder, Chick Corea, Hiromi Uehara, Miles Davis, John Coltrane, Alexander Abreu, Patrice Rushen, Justice League (producers for Rick Ross and other notable folks), Sade, Anita Baker. For this album in particular, also Paco de Lucia, Ketama, and Pata Negra.”

In his dissertation, Táíwò “develops a narrative theory of action, human life, and social structures and reconsiders standard questions in political and ethical philosophy within this framework, including a substantive account of freedom in relation to social and political structures,” drawing on “German transcendental philosophy, contemporary philosophy of language, contemporary social science, histories of activism and activist thinkers, and the Black radical tradition.”

He says that he often finds himself exploring similar themes in his music and philosophy. He says that for this album he was thinking of “how to understand one’s decisions and environment in the context of ones whole life story,” for example, “how colonialism has closed doors for people and how people respond to that.”

Many young philosophers feel that they have to dedicate all of their time and energy to their philosophical work. I asked Táíwò about this and I thought his reply was interesting and worth sharing:

Well the big thing is that the ability to live a full life of any kind—whether fully responsive to one’s range of expressive interests, or fully immersed in the raising of one’s children or caring for other loved ones, or anything else that requires a form of work that doesn’t colonize our entire life, energy, and goals—is ultimately a labor issue. I am very fortunate to have been in a situation where we had a union fighting for labor protections that aimed to prevent some of the overwork abuses that are slowly being structured into the jobs of far too many of us, and also to work as a graduate academic worker in department that respected those protections. I think the first thing I would say to someone that wants to do philosophy and some other time and energy consuming thing is that there’s no substitute of mindset, day planning, or calendaring for us fighting together for fair and livable work conditions.

He also noted the importance of having a life beyond one’s academic work:

I think being deeply immersed in something outside of philosophy has made me a better philosopher. It’s easy to get into the habit of responding to the field and the literature rather than directly to the world—that is, where the answers to the questions that the field and the literature are trying to answer live, and where all of the people live who have to deal with the fallout of the answers we endorse.

It’s easy to see why this is an upshot for me as a political philosopher but I suspect that in general it could be grounding in a way to seriously do some sort of non academic activity, in a way that supplements rather than trades off with one’s academic work. I have a number of friends and colleagues who seriously run, or do art (shoutout to Professor Natalia Washington for the beautiful album cover!), or jujitsu, or whatever who are also really really first scholars and it doesn’t seem like a coincidence to me.

Have a listen.

The post New Release from Philosopher-Musician Olúfẹmi O. Táíwò appeared first on Daily Nous.

Guy Sebastian Gives Polite Apology To Rowdy Fan Who Threw Half A Muffin At Him

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 12/07/2018 - 8:09am in

Tags 

Media, concert, Music

Former Australian Idol winner Guy Sebastian has been captured on video hugging and apologising to an audience member who threw half a muffin at him during a live show in the NSW central west.

“Guy was halfway through “I Like It Like That” when this muffin came sailing through the air and sconed him right between the eyes,” said concert goer Estella Blandford. “He stopped the song, said “Oh golly gosh”, then asked the rest of the audience to emphasise with the muffin thrower before making his way down to the mosh pit to give the culprit a hug.”

“I was getting a bit of a sugar high and got carried away and for some reason decided to toss my muffin towards the stage,” said confectionary throwing perpetrator Aidan Middleroad. “Guy listened to what I had to say and fully understood my point of view, and then apologised for singing a bit flat.”

The concert resumed after the entire crowd had a good long “deep and meaningful” about their feelings.

“I guess if I was in the audience of one of my concerts I’d want to throw something too,” said Sebastian after the show as he wiped the crumbs from his afro. “However it was unprofessional of me to almost utter a curse word and I invited the poor fellow backstage after the show and offered him first choice of any of the muffins from out rider to replace the one he’d lost.”

Peter Green

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Fiscal policy in Australia is undermining the future of our grandchildren

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 11/07/2018 - 6:41pm in

Its Wednesday, so just a few short snippets that came to my attention, some comedy and some great music that has kept me company today while I have been working today. The first snippet concerns my revelation that fiscal policy in Australia is undermining the future of our grandchildren. Yes, an out-of-control government is spending our way to a future oblivion. The second snippet is my analysis of the latest INSA/YouGov German poll which shows that the euphoria if you can call it that which followed the formation of the GroKo has now dissipated and the AfD have overtaken the SPD in popularity. Which tells you that the progressive movements in Germany are failing. Why? Because they decided not to be progressive and, instead, decided to ape the conservatives. Not a good idea. The polls are showing why.

Fiscal stupidity undermines the future of our grandchildren

Yes, you read that correctly.

The fiscal policies employed by the Australian government are working against the future of our children and their children.

How do I know that?

The peak body representing Australian Universities – Universities Australia (no less) released a statement yesterday (July 10, 2018) – Government and business must rev up R&D or we’ll risk national prosperity – summarising its submission to the upcoming parliamentary enquiry into research funding.

We learn that:

1. “But, over the past three decades, we’ve seen a worrying trend with Governments conducting less and less R&D – and universities have had to step into the breach to maintain national capacity.”

2. “Australia now spends 1.88 per cent of GDP on research and development, well below the OECD average of 2.38 per cent.”

3. “for the first time since records have been kept, OECD figures show that Australia’s business R&D declined in 2015-16”.

4. Even the austerity-trapped British government “has set a target to spend 2.4 per cent of GDP on R&D.”

5. “Australia’s R&D spend as a percentage of GDP is less than Iceland’s. That’s a country with a population smaller than Canberra” (our capital city).

The OECD data is available HERE.

They produced this interesting bubble chart showing total expenditure as a proportion of GDP on the horizontal axis and the Researchers, per thousand employment on the vertical axis.

That little green bubble is Australia. Look who are to the right and above Australia. Much smarter nations than us it seems.

Further examination of the data reveals that:

1. Between 2013-14 and 2015-16, private business R&D expenditure fell by 12 per cent ($A2.2 billion).

This highlights a consistent issue in Australia. The private sector has historically underinvested in research and training, preferring to act as a parasite on the public sector efforts in this regard.

The problem then is that over the neoliberal period, public training and research expenditure has not grown sufficiently and the private sector has not picked up the slack.

Lose-lose all round.

2. Over the same period, total R&D expenditure in Australia fell by 7 per cent ($A2.4 billion).

I have worked in universities for a long time now and have been running a research centre since 1998. That centre has to generate all its own funding, which is not an easy task.

As government spending on tertiary education has slowed, universities have been increasingly relying on researchers to generate external funding, in an environment where funding is scarce and getting harder to access.

The overall result is that Australia will fall behind in innovation and productivity growth and our material living standards will fall.

But it won’t be the top-end-of-town that suffers. Unless we (the people) do something about it, the trend where the top-end-of-town captures an increasing share of national income will continue and the rest of us will be left behind.

Real wages growth has been flat for some years now.

Why is R&D being starved of government funds?

The stupid neoliberal policy mindset is the answer.

In 2008, the federal government set up a large fund to help stimulate research in Australia. Then it got caught up in public opinion which demanded that it also set up the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS), which was to be an improved framework for families struggling with mental and physical disabilities.

Funding both you would think would be a Win-win all round.

But not when the Government thinks it has to run fiscal surpluses and so it cut the R&D allocations to ‘pay’ for the NDIS (which started in 2015) among other things.

Of course, it could have had both.

It has since also gone cold on the NDIS idea because it ‘costs too much’.

Go figure.

I am sure our children and their children will work this out and look back on their parents and grandparents as being absolute mindless dolts.

Social Democratic Party in Germany heading for extinction – hopefully

The latest INSA/YouGov poll in Germany is interesting because it reveals that public opinion now ranks the Social Democratic Party (SPD) below the Alternative for Germany (AfD).

The German general election was held on September 24, 2017.

It took until March for the GroKo (Große Koalition) between the CDU/CSU and the SPD to be agreed. The SPD membership voted to enter the GroKo on March 4, 2018, after their party officials swore they would not.

The new German government resumed office on March 14, 2018.

At the time of the election, the voting patterns were:

Party
% of vote
Seats
INSA poll %

CDU/CSU
32.9
246
34.0

SPD
20.5
153
21.0

AfD
12.6
94
8.0

FDP
10.7
80
9.0

Left
9.2
69
11.0

Green
8.9
67
8.0

Note: The INSA poll was taken on September 22, 2017, two days before the election.
AfD = Alternative for Germany
CDU = Christian Democratic Union of Germany
CSU = Christian Social Union in Bavaria
SPD = Social Democratic Party of Germany
Green = ALLIANCE 90 / THE GREENS
FDP = Free Democratic Party
Left = DIE LINKE

In terms of the INSA/YouGov poll, the AfD was considered more popular in the February 19, 2018 poll and maintained that position for 2 weeks, only to slip back below the SPD, as the latter firmed as the GroKo partner with the CDU/CSU.

But in the latest poll from Monday, the SPD has slipped 2 percentage points (19 to 17 per cent) while the AfD has risen from 16.5 to 17.5 per cent. The CDU/CSU remained firm on 29 per cent, well down on its September election result.

The trend is for growing popularity of the AfD and declining SPD appeal, which was interrupted when it entered the GroKo in early March.

This graph shows the movement in voter intentions from the general election on September 28, 2009 to the latest poll on July 9, 2018.

The vertical red line denotes when the general elections were held.

The respondents were responding to the question: “Who would you vote for if the Bundestag election was tomorrow?”

You can download the entire dataset – HERE.

The patterns are fairly clear.

Here is a more focused view of the same data since the September 24, 2017 election.

The loss in SPD (under the leadership of Martin Schulz) after the election was stunning. There was some recovery in support after Schulz stood down as party chair on February 13, 2018.

The GroKo deal saw a blip in support upwards as Deputy chair Olaf Scholz was installed as the Finance Minister.

But his conservatism and adoption of a new middle name – to wit “Wolfgang Schäuble” – has not helped maintain the SPD popularity. Quite the opposite.

Germans now prefer the hard-right party AfD to the SPD, which has abandoned its ideals and mission.

The recent shift in voting sentiment is not likely to reverse any time soon and demonstrates the bereftness of the social democratic political movement in Germany.

By playing along with Merkel’s conservatives and pushing a strong Europhile sentiment, the SPD has opened the door for the AfD, which is exploiting the hardships that people are feeling as a result of Germany’s economic policies among other things.

The hope for Eurozone reform

And while on Germany, this is very entertaining.

Brooklyn Funk Essentials

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is not the only good thing from New York.

Here is one of my favourite bands – Brooklyn Funk Essentials – which:

… is a music collective who mix jazz, funk, and hip hop, featuring musicians and poets from different cultures.

Their first album from 1995 – Cool and Steady and Easy – is a masterpiece. I listen to it regularly and was doing so today.

Here are two tracks from that album.

The first is Take The L Train (To Brooklyn)

And when you get there Take The L Train (To 8 Avenue) – which is my favourite.

That is enough for today!

(c) Copyright 2018 William Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

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