reading

Sunday, 15 October 2017 - 3:01pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 15/10/2017 - 3:01pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

Sunday, 8 October 2017 - 6:16pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 08/10/2017 - 6:16pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

Sunday, 1 October 2017 - 7:13pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 01/10/2017 - 7:13pm in

This week, I have been procrastinating and not writing an essay:

  • Editorial market — Flea Snobbery by Andrés Diplotti:
  • What is the Minimum Wage that Will Employ Everyone? — Carlos Maciel at the Minskys: To find the best wage rate for JG jobs, a few parameters should be considered. First, the JG framework is to create jobs that provide at least a minimum “subsistence” rate, so that workers can live a decent life. As such, it is clear that the JG wage should at least be the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. Second, the goal of the JG is not, and should never be, to replace the private sector. So, the JG wage should not exceed the average wage paid in the private sector ($25.31 in 2016). This creates an upper limit. With these lower and upper limits in place we can raise the floor or lower the ceiling, ultimately arriving at the proper wage rate paid by this full employment policy.

Anthropocene Reading Group 2017/18

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/09/2017 - 12:32am in

CUSP logo - without taglineCoordinated by Will Davies, Richard Douglas and Nick Taylor, the Anthropocene Reading Group is meeting regularly to discuss some of the latest literature in the field. The reading relates to the work within CUSP that they are currently engaged in, but is relevant to those interested in political economy generally, environmental politics and philosophy, and more. It is open to all – academics, non-academics, students – and no registration is required.

Meetings will take place on Wednesdays at 4pm in the basement seminar room at PERC, 41 Lewisham Way, opposite the main Goldsmiths building (how to find Goldsmiths).

Reading Schedule and Reviews 2017/18

Wed 15th Nov – Amitav Ghosh (2016) The Great Derangement 

Wed 17th Jan – Oliver Morton (2015) The Planet Remade 

Wed 14th Feb – Déborah Kanowski & Eduardo Viveiros de Castro (2016) The Ends of the World

Wed 14th Mar –  Andreas Malm (2018) The Progress of This Storm

Wed 11th Apr – Bruno Latour (2017) Facing Gaia: Eight Lectures on the New Climactic Regime

Wed 16th May – Naomi Klein (2014) This Changes Everything

Wed 13th June – Geoff Mann & Joel Wainwright (2018) Climate Leviathan

See 2016/17 readings and reviews here

The post Anthropocene Reading Group 2017/18 appeared first on Political Economy Research Centre.

Sunday, 24 September 2017 - 6:12pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 24/09/2017 - 6:12pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • No, the “grown-ups” won’t save us: A favorite Beltway fantasy bites the dust again — Heather Digby Parton in Salon: One would have thought Americans had learned their lesson after having lived through the disaster of the George W. Bush years. But 16 years later the Republican Party served up another unqualified, ill-equipped nominee, and he, too, became president without winning the most votes. Once again the establishment tried to reassure the public that he would be held in check by the vice president and the respectable appointees: Gen. Jim Mattis at the Pentagon, Gen. John Kelly at Homeland Security and — after the first choice was fired — Gen. H.R. McMaster as national security adviser. Since the military is the only institution left in America that maintains even the slightest respect among the public, this seemed like a good idea. These men had commanded legions; surely they could control the likes of President Donald Trump.
  • Intellectual Property Is Real Money — Dean Baker in Jacobin: The idea of imposing a 20 percent tariff on imported shoes or steel would send any mainstream economist into a frenzy. They all know how tariffs distort the market, leading to waste and corruption. But when it comes to patents and copyrights, the difference we are talking about — between the protected price and the “free market price” — is ten or even a hundred times higher than it would be otherwise.
  • Are Students a Class? — Michael Hudson: In view of the fact that a college education is a precondition for joining the working class (except for billionaire dropouts), the middle class is a debtor class – so deep in debt that once they manage to get a job, they have no leeway to go on strike, much less to protest against bad working conditions. This is what Alan Greenspan described as the “traumatized worker effect” of debt. Do students think about their future in these terms? How do they think of their place in the world?
  • Monopoly has a Magic Money Tree, just like the real world — Richard Murphy on a point previously made by Stephanie Kelton: Monopoly reflects real life perfectly: the central bank can never run out of money. If it does, it can just create some more.
  • #1317; In which an Adult has Fantasies — Wondermark, by David Malki !:
  • Slow Crash — Andrew Cockburn interviews Michael Hudson in Harper's: Wall Street’s investment banks and bondholders were rescued, not the economy. The debts were left in place, and continue to grow not only by compound interest but by arrears and penalties compounding. The proportion of national income paid as interest, insurance fees and economic rent is rising faster than the economy is growing. Banks lend mainly to other financial institutions. They don’t lend to factories that are creating jobs. They don’t lend out for goods and services. They lend to other financial institutions. The whole economy has turned into trying to make money on speculation and arbitrage, not on producing goods and services, not on hiring people to actually do work. The economy therefore is very fragile.

Sunday, 17 September 2017 - 7:11pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 17/09/2017 - 7:11pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • My “Nonviolent” Stance Was Met With Heavily Armed Men — Logan Rimel of Radical Discipleship: I never felt safer than when I was near antifa. They came to defend people, to put their bodies between these armed white supremacists and those of us who could not or would not fight. They protected a lot of people that day, including groups of clergy. My safety (and safety is relative in these situations) was dependent upon their willingness to commit violence. In effect, I outsourced the sin of my violence to them. I asked them to get their hands dirty so I could keep mine clean. Do you understand? They took that up for me, for the clergy they shielded, for those of us in danger. We cannot claim to be pacifists or nonviolent when our safety requires another to commit violence, and we ask for that safety.
  • The First White President — Ta-Nehisi Coates in the Atlantic: Trump is the first president to have served in no public capacity before ascending to his perch. But more telling, Trump is also the first president to have publicly affirmed that his daughter is a “piece of ass.” The mind seizes trying to imagine a black man extolling the virtues of sexual assault on tape (“When you’re a star, they let you do it”), fending off multiple accusations of such assaults, immersed in multiple lawsuits for allegedly fraudulent business dealings, exhorting his followers to violence, and then strolling into the White House. But that is the point of white supremacy—to ensure that that which all others achieve with maximal effort, white people (particularly white men) achieve with minimal qualification. Barack Obama delivered to black people the hoary message that if they work twice as hard as white people, anything is possible. But Trump’s counter is persuasive: Work half as hard as black people, and even more is possible.
  • Humans are intrinsically anti neo-liberal — Bill Mitchell: One of the great casualties of this neo-liberal dark age that we are living through at present and which began in the 1980s (if not a little earlier) is that society has been subjugated to economy. In the 1980s, we began to live in economies rather than societies or communities.
  • Why Economists Have to Embrace Complexity to Avoid Disaster — Evonomics publishes an awe-inspiring excerpt from Steve Keen's new book: The reason that aggregating individual downward sloping demand curve[s] results in a market demand curve that can have any shape at all is simple to understand, but—for those raised in the mainstream tradition—very difficult to accept. The individual demand curve is derived by assuming that relative prices can change without affecting the consumer’s income. This assumption can’t be made when you consider all of society—which you must do when aggregating individual demand to derive a market demand curve—because changing relative prices will change relative incomes as well.
  • Capital is failing Australia not labour — Leith van Onselen at MacroBusiness: In 1974, the share of TFI taken by wages was 62%, whereas as at December 2016 it had fallen to just 53% – a 9% decline. By contrast, the share of TFI taken by profits was 17% in 1974, whereas as at December 2016 it had risen to 26% – a 9% increase. Moreover, the fall in workers’ share of TFI has nothing to do with productivity. […] Australian labour productivity (real GDP per hour worked) has risen by just under 80% since 1978, whereas real average compensation per employee has risen by just 28% over the same period.
  • An Open Letter to My Online Student — Peyton Burgess at McSweeny's Internet Tendency: Did you get my email regarding the Extra Credit assignment? You could benefit from the Extra Credit assignment. Many of you could benefit from it. Nobody has emailed me yet to say how generous it was of me to offer the Extra Credit assignment. Online Student, you have never responded, and I fear you never will.
  • Donald Trump has just met with the new leader of the secular world – Pope Francis — Robert Fisk, the Independent: For more and more, the Good Old Pope is coming to represent what the Trumps and Mays will not say: that the West has a moral duty to end its wars in the Middle East, to stop selling weapons to the killers of the Middle East and to treat the people of the Middle East with justice and dignity.
  • Meet the CamperForce, Amazon's Nomadic Retiree Army — Jessica Bruder in Wired: Many of the workers who joined Camper­Force were around traditional retirement age, in their sixties or even seventies. They were glad to have a job, even if it involved walking as many as 15 miles a day on the concrete floor of a warehouse. From a hiring perspective, the RVers were a dream labor force. They showed up on demand and dispersed just before Christmas in what the company cheerfully called a “taillight parade.” They asked for little in the way of benefits or protections. And though warehouse jobs were physically taxing—not an obvious fit for older bodies—recruiters came to see Camper­Force workers’ maturity as an asset. These were diligent, responsible employees. Their attendance rates were excellent.
  • The Dystopia We Signed Up For — Chelsea Manning in the New York TImes: The real power of mass data collection lies in the hand-tailored algorithms capable of sifting, sorting and identifying patterns within the data itself. When enough information is collected over time, governments and corporations can use or abuse those patterns to predict future human behavior. Our data establishes a “pattern of life” from seemingly harmless digital residue like cellphone tower pings, credit card transactions and web browsing histories.

Sunday, 10 September 2017 - 4:55pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 10/09/2017 - 4:55pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Demon-Haunted World — Cory Doctorow at Locus Online: The basic theory of cheating is to assume that the cheater is ‘‘rational’’ and won’t spend more to cheat than they could make from the scam: the cost of cheating is the risk of getting caught, multiplied by the cost of the punishment (fines, reputational dam­age), added to the technical expense associated with breaking the anti-cheat mechanisms. Software changes the theory. Software – whose basic underlying mechanism is ‘‘If this happens, then do this, otherwise do that’’ – allows cheaters to be a lot more subtle, and thus harder to catch. Software can say, ‘‘If there’s a chance I’m undergoing inspection, then be totally honest – but cheat the rest of the time.’’
  • Widening inequality is largely a US and UK phenomenon – why? — by good lord, it's Vince Cable, new Lib Dem leader!: […] there is abundant cross-country evidence that too much inequality can harm economic performance, and that redistributive politics can do good. Studies suggest that higher levels of inequality are associated with unproductive rent-seeking; contribute to financial instability; feed asset bubbles rather than productive investment; weaken demand and encourage high levels of household debt; and lead to underinvestment in education and health.
  • Nature Does Not Grade on a Curve — Ian Welsh: One of the problems with de-naturing (with living in almost entirely human made systems, and with pushing those bits we don’t control off into ghettos as we would illness), is that it means most people almost never experience a benchmark that isn’t set by other human beings. They feel, in their guts, that if only other people are convinced, any problem can be fixed or finangled. No. The bear doesn’t care that you can’t run fast enough because TV is funner than going for a jog, and nature doesn’t care that shareholders needed value and that oil barons didn’t want to be a little poorer (or whatever). And neither will those who suffer from climate changes due to our ethical monstrosity and sheer incapability.
  • The Future of Work, Robotization, and Capitalism’s Ability to Generate Useless Jobs — Rutger Bregman: The time has come to stop sidestepping the debate and home in on the real issue: what would our economy look like if we were to radically redefine the meaning of “work”? I firmly believe that a universal basic income is the most effective answer to the dilemma of advancing robotization. Not because robots will take over all the purposeful jobs, but because a basic income would give everybody the chance to do work that is meaningful. I believe in a future where the value of your work is not determined by the size of your paycheck, but by the amount of happiness you spread and the amount of meaning you give. I believe in a future where the point of education is not to prepare you for another useless job, but for a life well lived. I believe in a future where “jobs are for robots and life is for people.”
  • Ransom — Flea Snobbery:
  • Even when wars end in the Middle East, superbugs and aggressive cancers caused by conflict fight on — Robert Fisk in the Independent: A Medecins Sans Frontieres analysis – presented at the conference by Abu-Sitta and Dr Omar Dewachi who co-direct a newly created Conflict Medicine Programme at the AUB supported by Jonathan Whittall of Medecins sans Frontieres – said that multidrug resistant [MDR] bacteria now accounts for most war wound infections across the Middle East, yet most medical facilities in the region do not even have the laboratory capacity to diagnose MDR, leading to significant delays and clinical mismanagement of festering wounds. Beyond the physical damage caused by weaponry, Whittall added, “destroyed or degraded sanitation facilitates the microbiological seeding of wounds. The body, weakened by the wound, is reinjured when it interacts with the harsh, physically degraded environment.”
  • The bitcoin and blockchain: energy hogs — Fabrice Flipo and Michel Berne in the Conversation: In a 2014 study, Karl J. O’Dwyer and David Malone showed that the consumption of the bitcoin network was likely to be approximately equivalent to the electricity consumption of a country like Ireland, i.e. an estimated 3 GW. Imagine the consequences if this type of bitcoin currency becomes widespread. The global money supply in circulation is estimated at $11,000 billion. The corresponding energy consumption should therefore exceed 4,000 GW, which is eight times the electricity consumption of France and twice that of the United States. It is not without reason that a recent headline on the Novethic website proclaimed “The bitcoin, a burden for the climate”.
  • The Varieties of Populist Experience — Robert Skidelsky: To be sure, support for a leftist program certainly exists in France. About 20% of voters backed the left-wing populist Jean-Luc Mélenchon in the presidential election’s first round. In the second round, one particularly illuminating Twitter hashtag was #NiPatronNiPatrie (“neither boss nor country”), reflecting many voters’ dissatisfaction with the election’s choice between neoliberalism and nationalism. The task of the left is to direct attention to the truly problematic aspects of global economic integration – financialization, the prioritization of capital over labor, of creditor over debtor, of patron over ouvrier – without lapsing into reactionary politics.
  • I wrote ‘The Art of the Deal’ with Trump. His self-sabotage is rooted in his past. — Tony Schwartz in the Washington Post: The Trump I got to know had no deep ideological beliefs, nor any passionate feeling about anything but his immediate self-interest. He derives his sense of significance from conquests and accomplishments. “Can you believe it, Tony?” he would often say at the start of late-night conversations with me, going on to describe some new example of his brilliance. But the reassurance he got from even his biggest achievements was always ephemeral and unreliable — and that appears to include being elected president. Any addiction has a predictable pattern: The addict keeps chasing the high by upping the ante in an increasingly futile attempt to re-create the desired state. On the face of it, Trump has more opportunities now to feel significant and accomplished than almost any other human being on the planet. But that’s like saying a heroin addict has his problem licked once he has free and continuous access to the drug. Trump also now has a far bigger and more public stage on which to fail and to feel unworthy.
  • Renegade Shorts - STEVE KEEN on Government Surplus:
  • Australians don’t loiter in public space – the legacy of colonial control by design — Aaron Magro in the Conversation: While towns and new suburbs in the young colony were deeply influenced by European urban design, a key feature was excluded – the piazza. Governor Richard Bourke made very clear to surveyors that new towns in New South Wales (which at the time encompassed present-day Victoria) must not include public squares as these could promote rebellion.
  • Free Time and the Pressures of Employability — David Frayne at Zed Books: The notion of employability has risen to remarkable prominence in the early part of the twenty-first century, where it forms the lynchpin of a neoliberal political philosophy, in which the state and employers are no longer committed to, or deemed responsible for, providing citizens with lasting and secure jobs. Those politicians who champion neoliberal policies have glorified paid employment, whilst at the same time dismantling the social protections that have traditionally insulated citizens against the uncertainties of the labour market. Within this context, the capacity of individuals to work relentlessly at their employability has come to be understood as the crux of national and individual prosperity.

Sunday, 3 September 2017 - 6:28pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 03/09/2017 - 6:28pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Review of Steve Keen’s “Can we avoid another financial crisis?” — Michael Hudson: Mainstream models are unable to forecast or explain a depression. That is because depressions are essentially financial in character. The business cycle itself is a financial cycle – that is, a cycle of the buildup and collapse of debt. Keen’s “Minsky” model traces this to what he has called “endogenous money creation,” that is, bank credit mainly to buyers of real estate, companies and other assets. He recently suggested a more catchy moniker: “Bank Originated Money and Debt” (BOMD). That seems easier to remember.
  • Education Can’t Fix Poverty. So Why Keep Insisting that It Can? — Jennifer Berkshire interviews Harvey Kantor in the Have You Heard blog: One of the consequences of making education so central to social policy has been that we’ve ended up taking the pressure off of the state for the kinds of policies that would be more effective at addressing poverty and economic inequality. Instead we’re asking education to do things it can’t possibly do. The result has been increasing support for the kinds of market-oriented policies that make inequality worse.
  • Three radical ideas to transform the post-crisis economy — Martin Sanbu in the AFR: If private management of the money supply is a recipe for instability, the radical alternative is to nationalise the money supply. This is do-able today: central banks can offer accounts to all members of the public (or make central bank reserves available to everyone). Banks could be restricted to allocating existing savings to investments, rather than creating new credit. Another imperative is that of economic security. Previous radicals created safety nets where none existed. Today we have ample welfare states, but they still leave large groups in precarious conditions. Sometimes they trap them there, as generous benefits for low earners are withdrawn with rising incomes, creating prohibitive effective marginal tax rates for the modestly paid. The radical solution is a universal basic income, the proposal to pay an unconditional benefit to all citizens, financed by tax rises. The idea is rediscovered by every other generation; the time to put it into practice may now have come.
  • Can Trump Deliver on Growth? — James K. Galbraith in Dissent Magazine: As things stand, the financial sector neither serves a public purpose nor does it deliver the growth it once did, until it broke down nine years ago. While there are people who feel obliged to borrow, and there will always be new generations of suckers, boom-and-bust banking credit isn’t a viable model for growth any more. What should be done about the banks? These are institutions with high fixed costs and with technologies and transnational legal structures that are designed to facilitate tax evasion and regulatory arbitrage. They face very limited prospects for sustained profitability in activities that correspond to social need. Their entire structure isn’t viable in a world of slow growth, except by fostering short-lived booms (of which the shale rush was the most recent example), followed by busts and bailouts. In short, the financial sector as a whole is a luxury we cannot afford.
  • Savings are an Export Product — Neil Wilson: Foreign entities are holding your currency as savings. Similarly, financial products denominated in your currency are held as savings. Savings are, in effect, an export product of your currency area. Once you look at it this way, then savings are very similar to a barrel of oil in stock, or an aircraft engine. If your country relies upon oil exports and people stop wanting oil then you may have a problem. If you rely on aircraft engine exports and there are no orders for new aircraft, you may have a problem. If you rely upon people taking your savings (because they had an export-led policy — which implies a savings-import policy) and that changes (the export-led policy moves to a domestic-led policy, as we’re starting to see in China) then you may have a problem.
  • The University Does Not Think — Simon Cooper in Arena: If we look at the various levels of university activity, from undergraduate teaching to academic research, to the relationship between the university and the wider social realm, it becomes quickly apparent how the university has been captured by instrumental logic since the expansion of the system in the 1980s. The increasing dominance of knowledge as a commodity (as opposed to other modalities of knowledge—critique, interpretation, wisdom and so forth) has played out across various domains. Starting with undergraduate education, we can see how the introduction of fees and debt systems creates a shift around the meaning of education towards a more narrowly instrumental one for both the student and the institution. As G. L. Williams remarks, ‘students have been metamorphosed from apprentices into customers and their teachers from master craftsmen to merchants’. University education as vocational training has become an increasingly central way of framing the student’s relation to knowledge, with a consequent decline in less ‘market-friendly’ subjects. The atrophy of the pure sciences, philosophy, social theory, literature etc. within many tertiary institutions is well established. In some cases, humanities departments have closed, replaced by ‘creative industries’ centres whose rationale is to marketise skills generated by an applied-humanities model, discarding all others.
  • The Rock-Star Appeal of Modern Monetary Theory — Atossa Araxia Abrahamian at the Nation: According to this small but increasingly vocal cohort of economists, including Bernie Sanders’s former chief economic adviser, once we change the way we think about money, we can provide for everyone: We don’t have to “find” the money to “pay” for universal health care by “cutting” the budget elsewhere. In fact, our government already works that way: Spending must precede taxation, or there would be no dollars in the economy to tax. It’s the political will to spend on certain things, not the money to afford it, that’s lacking.
  • Immiseration Revisited: The four phases of working time — Sandwichman at Angry Bear: The four phases of working time can be labeled cooperation, exploitation, immiseration and ruin. The incentive for employers is to progress inexorably toward the last phase unless regulated by legislation or collective bargaining.[…] In conclusion, yes, there is a neo-classical immiseration theory. The economists who propounded it apparently were unaware that it was such a theory. By extension, that immiseration theory is a crisis theory. There is no built-in mechanism of negative feedback from prices that militates against the passage from the immiseration phase to the ruin phase. Hicks assumed that a “very moderate degree of rationality on the part of employers will thus lead them to reduce hours to the output optimum as soon as Trade Unionism has to be reckoned with at all seriously [emphasis added].” But by the time exploitation has progressed to the immiseration phase, trade unionism doesn’t have to be “reckoned with at all seriously” by employers.
  • What is human capital? — Peter Fleming in Aeon Essays: Friedman had discovered in human capital theory more than just a means for boosting economic growth. The very way it conceptualised human beings was an ideological weapon too, especially when it came to counteracting the labour-centric discourse of communism, both outside and inside the US. For doesn’t human capital theory provide the ultimate conservative retort to the Marxist slogan that workers should seize the means of production? If each person is already his own means of production, then the presumed conflict at the heart of the capitalist labour process logically dissolves. Schultz too was starting to see the light, and agreed that workers might actually be de facto capitalists: ‘labourers have become capitalists not from the diffusion of the ownership of corporation stocks, as folk law would have it, but from the acquisition of knowledge and skill that have economic value.’

Sunday, 27 August 2017 - 5:42pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 27/08/2017 - 5:42pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

Sunday, 20 August 2017 - 6:42pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 20/08/2017 - 6:42pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Actually, Germany Can Do Something About Its Trade Surplus — Dean Baker: If Germany were prepared to run more expansionary fiscal policy and allow its inflation rate to rise somewhat then it could have more balanced trade, meaning that it would be getting something in exchange for its exports. However, Germany's political leaders would apparently prefer to give things away to its trading partners in order to feel virtuous about balanced budgets and low inflation. The price for this "virtue" in much of the rest of the euro zone is slow growth, stagnating wages, and mass unemployment.
  • The Democratic Party’s Anti-Bernie Elites Have a Huge Stake in Blaming Russia — Norman Solomon: After Hillary Clinton’s devastating loss nearly six months ago, her most powerful Democratic allies feared losing control of the party. Efforts to lip-synch economic populism while remaining closely tied to Wall Street had led to a catastrophic defeat. […] In short, the Democratic Party’s anti-Bernie establishment needed to reframe the discourse in a hurry. And -- in tandem with mass media -- it did. The reframing could be summed up in two words: Blame Russia.
  • Making Sense of the Deportation Debate — Aviva Chomsky in TomDispach: A Washington Post scare headline typically read: “ICE Immigration Arrests of Noncriminals Double Under Trump.” While accurate, it was nonetheless misleading. Non-criminal immigration arrests did indeed jump from 2,500 in the first three months of 2016 to 5,500 during the same period in 2017, while criminal arrests also rose, bringing the total to 21,000. Only 16,000 were arrested during the same months in 2016. The article, however, ignores the fact that 2016 was the all-time low year for arrests under President Obama. In the first three months of 2014, for example, 29,000 were arrested, far more than Trump’s three-month “record.”
  • Cyber.Hospital — VectorBelly:

Pages