reading

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:

Sunday, 13 August 2017 - 7:08pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 13/08/2017 - 7:08pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Toronto Housing Bubble Pops. “Genuine Fear” of Price Collapse — Wolf Richter: “Clearly, the year-over-year decline we experienced in July had more to do with psychology, with would-be home buyers on the sidelines waiting to see how market conditions evolve,” said [Toronto Real Estate Board] President Tim Syrianos. Alas “psychology” is precisely what causes house price bubbles – not fundamentals, such as 2.3% annual wage increases. And when that “psychology” turns, it pricks those bubbles.
  • Housing bubble is now official, commence arse-covering (panic)! — Matt Ellis: We look to be approaching the final panic stages of the last blow off in this epic bubble, as the kitchen sink is thrown at the market in a desperate attempt to avoid the inevitable. But it will only do further damage, and ultimately prove futile. This is the cost that we all have to pay for those beloved property prices – that illusory “wealth effect” that simply amounts to a pile of household debt as large as the difference between the total nominal value and the total fair value of the housing market.
  • Explainer: shadow banking and where it came from — Huon Curtis in the Conversation: Australia can’t do much to remedy global uncertainty. However, policies it pursues do link into shadow banking practices in multiple ways. Policies that erode the standard employment relation and cut pay rates increase consumer demand for short-term credit products. This increases private debt for consumers, but feeds its attractiveness into an asset class for institutional investors.
  • I See What Google Did There… — Adam Croom: Today Google announced what is, again, a fun and intriguing tool called AutoDraw. You draw some squiggly lines and it uses AI to guess what you meant to draw. […] Does Google really want to improve drawing everywhere? Did Google find a specific weakness within the human race and thus felt compelled to solve a world problem? Or is Google creating a product that meets a market need of designers who need quick icons? Nah, none of those. Does it want to improve machine learning? Hell yes it does.
  • British Labour has to break out of the neo-liberal ‘cost’ framing trap — Bill Mitchell: Statements such as the ‘nation cannot afford the cost of some program’ are never made when the military goes crazy and launches millions of dollars of missiles to be blasted off in the dark of the night. But when it comes to public health systems or the nutritional requirements of our children, the neo-liberals have their calculators out toting up the dollars. However, the actual cost of a government program is the change it causes in the usage of real resources. When we ask whether the nation can afford a policy initiative, we should ignore the $x and consider what real resources are available and the potential benefits. The available real resources constitute the fiscal space. The fiscal space should then always be related to the purposes to which we aspire, and the destination we wish to reach. British Labour needs to learn those basics fast and to break out of the neo-liberal ‘cost’ framing it is trapped within.
  • With or without edtech — Jonathan Rees: Can you live without edtech? [You just knew I had to get around to edtech here eventually, right?] Shockingly enough, there were actually good schools in the United States long before Bill Clinton and Al Gore decided to put a computer in every classroom. Plenty of teachers and professors offer great classes of all kinds without anything more sophisticated than their voices and a chalkboard. Weirdly enough, just this morning, right after I read that article, I was pitching our dean on starting a digital humanities program in our college. “What about the professors who don’t want to use technology?,” he asked me. I said I would never in a million years force any teacher to use technology if they don’t want to, but it’s a actually a good thing if students have a wide range of classes in which they can enroll, some of which use educational technology and some of which don’t.

Sunday, 6 August 2017 - 7:53pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 06/08/2017 - 7:53pm in

This week, I have been writing a short essay rather than reading, which in practice means mostly playing Aisleriot:

Sunday, 30 July 2017 - 5:46pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 30/07/2017 - 5:46pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Meritocracy: the great delusion that ingrains inequality — Jo Littler: When the word meritocracy made its first recorded appearance, in 1956 in the obscure British journal Socialist Commentary, it was a term of abuse, describing a ludicrously unequal state that surely no one would want to live in. Why, mused the industrial sociologist Alan Fox, would you want to give more prizes to the already prodigiously gifted? Instead, he argued, we should think about “cross-grading”: how to give those doing difficult or unattractive jobs more leisure time, and share out wealth more equitably so we all have a better quality of life and a happier society.
  • ‘When I Was Your Age, We Used A Thing Called Cash’: And Other Ways to Fight Back Against The Banks — Warwick Smith in New Matilda: We need to stop seeing housing as a way to accumulate wealth and start to see it as… well, housing. This is largely a government policy responsibility and not something we can do as individuals. However, as individuals we can claw back a little bit of control and cut out the banks as middle men by using cash when we spend. This is particularly useful for the small local businesses where we shop. It could be the difference between them surviving and going under – or being able to pay staff versus working 12 hour days themselves. Those staff could be your kids or your friends.
  • Mortality Crisis Redux: The Economics of Despair — Pia Malaney, Institute for New Economic Thinking: Case and Deaton estimate that the upturn in mortality rates in the US is starkly divergent from other developed countries, and accounts for 96,000 deaths that could have been avoided between 1996 and 2013. Their latest work delves deeper into the underlying causes of this decline. “Deaths of Despair” — by suicide, drug overdose or alcohol abuse — cannot be completely explained simply by stagnant or declining incomes. Income profiles for middle aged blacks and Hispanics look similar, without a corresponding rise in mortality. Rather, the authors posit, it can be traced to a “cumulative disadvantage over life”, where declining labor market opportunities have led to declining outcomes not just in the labor market but also in health, marriage, and child rearing. In other words, the stress accompanying the shock of downward mobility is likely driving this health crisis. And:
  • America’s prison population is getting whiter — Keith Humphreys: The 21st century has witnessed remarkable decay in the well-being of many non-Hispanic white Americans. In a new report, economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton document that non-Hispanic whites who have a high school education or less have experienced reduced life expectancy and increased rates of suicide and addiction. Recent correctional system data highlight another dimension of this population’s travails: they are increasingly spending time in jail.
  • After 12 Rejections, Apple Accepts App That Tracks U.S. Drone Strikes — Josh Begley, the Intercept: Smartphones have connected us more intimately to all sorts of data. As Amitava Kumar put it recently, “The internet delivers ugly fragments of report and rumor throughout the day, and with them a sense of nearly constant intimacy with violence.” Yet information about drone strikes — in Apple’s universe — had somehow been deemed beyond the pale.
  • One weird trick for dealing with government-bashers — Jen Sorensen at Daily Kos:
  • Oh, Jeremy Corbyn — Neil Wilson on Medium: Student loans are not really loans. It’s just a list of people who are liable to a form of additional taxation after graduation. Even then it is only paid by those who managed to get a decentish job after graduation. Two thirds of the loans will likely be written off anyway. Scrapping tuition fees and the loan system is simply a tax cut for those who have bettered themselves and managed to get a reasonable job. Getting rid of the albatross around their necks and the necks of thousands, if not millions, of ex-students who were not quite so lucky in the jobs market will increase their capacity to spend in the economy. The resulting expansion and multiplier effect throughout the economy will absorb that spend via additional production and job expansion.
  • The Top Ed-Tech Trends (Aren't 'Tech') — Audrey Watters: In 2012, I chose “the platforming of education” as one of the “top ed-tech trends.” […] Platforms aim to centralize services and features and functionality so that you go nowhere else online. They aspire to be monopolies. Platforms enable and are enabled by APIs, by data collection and transference, by data analysis and data storage, by a marketplace of data (with users creating the data and users as the product). They’re silos, where all your actions can be tracked and monetized. In education, that’s the learning management system (the VLE) perhaps.
  • Announcing Unpaywall: unlocking #openaccess versions of paywalled research articles as you browse — Heather Piwowar and Jason Priem of Impactstory, the team behind Unpaywall, on the LSE Impact Blog: Today we’re launching a new tool to help people read research literature, instead of getting stuck behind paywalls. It’s an extension for Chrome and Firefox that links you to free full-text as you browse research articles. Hit a paywall? No problem: click the green tab and read it free! The extension is called Unpaywall, and it’s powered by an open index of more than ten million legally-uploaded, open access resources.

Sunday, 23 July 2017 - 6:54pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 23/07/2017 - 6:54pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Is the threat of a copyright lawsuit stifling music? — Chi Chi Izundu, BBC News: According to forensic musicologist Peter Oxendale "everyone's concerned that inspiration can [now be interpreted as] a catalyst for infringement. "All of these companies are worried that if a track is referenced on another at all, there may be a claim being brought," he explains. Mr Oxendale says some artists are now having the requirement to name their influences written into contracts by their record labels - although he would not specify names.
  • If your wallet is empty, you're part of the new majority — Peter Martin: An astounding 30 per cent of us keep no cash whatsoever in the house, up from 25 per cent three years ago. If nothing else, it suggests incredible faith in banks. The Reserve Bank carries out the survey every three years. In November it gave 1500 people diaries and asked them to record every transaction for a week, more than 17000 transactions in total. In a telling irony it rewarded them with gift cards rather than cash.
  • The Conversation About Basic Income is a Mess. Here’s How to Make Sense of It. — Charlie Young in Evonomics: It’s unusual to argue wholeheartedly against representative government, taxation or universal suffrage, while it is common to disagree on which party should govern, whether taxes should be raised or cut, and particular elements of voting procedure. In the same way, we shouldn’t argue all-out for or against UBI but instead inspect the make-up of each approach to it – that’s where we can find not only meaningful debate, but also possibilities for working out what we might actually want.
  • Infographic: the truth behind Centrelink’s waiting times — Wes Mountain, the Conversation: We’ve created this graphic – based on new data from 2015-16 calls confirmed by the Department of Human Services – to explain what’s really going on when Centrelink says its wait time is under 16 minutes. The last two major issues I had with Centrelink required four calls each (with a week between each call to give the wheels of bureaucracy a more-than-reasonable amount of time to turn) before I would call the issue "handled". Each call involved around two hours on hold. Sitting at the WWII-surplus phones in the local Centrelink office because I don't have a landline and can't afford to be on hold for that length of time on my mobile.
  • Real estate agents: let first home buyers raid their super — Leith van Onselen at MacroBusiness: Sure, allowing an individual [First Home Buyer] to access their super to purchase a home probably would increase their chances of home ownership, since they would have a leg-up on other buyers. But if you allow all FHBs to access their super, this advantage diminishes, and the end result will be home prices being bid-up for no ‘affordability’ gain, with the added downside of having less funds available in retirement. But on the other hand, if you can instruct your fund manager to cash out all your mortgage-backed assets it's a one-for-one risk swap. When the real estate bubble bursts you have the satisfaction of knowing all your losses were your losses. It's more personal.
  • The real reason Trump didn't want to shake hands with Merkel… — Gaius Publius at Digby's Hullabaloo:
  • Wall Street First — Michael Hudson: The straw that pushed voters over the edge was when [Hillary Clinton] asked voters, “Aren’t you better off today than you were eight years ago?” Who were they going to believe: their eyes, or Hillary’s? National income statistics showed that only the top 5 percent of the population were better off. All the growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) during Obama’s tenure went to them – the Donor Class that had gained control of the Democratic Party leadership.

Sunday, 16 July 2017 - 7:35pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 16/07/2017 - 7:35pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Amid Unprecedented Controversy, W3C Greenlights DRM for the Web — Cory Doctorow, Electronic Frontier Foundation: It was the most controversial vote in W3C history. As weeks and then months stretched out without a decision, another W3C member, the Center for Democracy and Technology, proposed a very, very narrow version of the covenant, one that would only protect security researchers who revealed accidental or deliberate leaks of data marked as private and sensitive by EME. Netflix's representative dismissed the idea out of hand, and then the W3C's CEO effectively killed the proposal. Today, the W3C announced that it would publish its DRM standard with no protections and no compromises at all, stating that W3C Director Tim Berners-Lee had concluded that the objections raised "had already been addressed" or that they were "overruled."
  • The Troubling Appeal of Education at For-Profit Schools — Dana Goldstein reviews the brilliant Tressie McMillan Cottom's new book in the NY Times: In the revelatory “Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy,” the sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom introduces us to London, a 48-year-old widow and single mother of three children. London lives in rural North Carolina, and has watched as decent working-class jobs in the textile industry disappeared from her region. […] At various times she trained to be a child care provider, a medical biller, a computer technician and, most recently, a medical assistant. Cottom asked London what she would do if she could not find the middle-class health care administration job she desired — a type of position that often requires training in a medical specialty like cardiology. London’s program at a branch of for-profit Everest College does not provide such specialized training. She smiled and told Cottom, “Jesus is my backup plan.”
  • Lower Ed: A Review — Matt Reed at Inside Higher Ed has a longer and better review of the same: In trying to answer the question of why so many students poured into for-profit colleges from about the mid-1990’s to 2010-ish, she argues for a different answer than the ones usually given. The usual answers are twofold. Either the for-profit colleges are simply slick thieves who preyed upon the unwitting, or the labor market suddenly required skills that nobody else could offer at scale. She suggests a third, which she calls credentialism. In her telling, students are not witless dupes, and technological change was not unique to the mid-90’s. Instead, for-profit colleges formed a sort of “negative social insurance” program by which students hoped to protect themselves against being left behind in a labor market that had outsourced training costs to workers themselves.
  • The Good News is Obamacare is Probably OK. The Bad News… — Ted Rall:
  • Pigouvian Taxes and Bounties — Timothy Taylor observes — to paraphrase a prominent public intellectual — who knew fiscal policy could be so complicated?: A related problem in thinking about Pigovian taxes arises when choosing the tax rate. For example, in the case of alcohol there is some evidence that moderate consumption may have health benefits, through a reduction in blood pressure. However, inappropriate and excessive consumption of alcohol can also lead to drunken driving, violence, fetal alcohol syndrome, and other consequences. Thus, it seems as if the appropriate Pigouvian tax on alcohol should be to subsidize the light social drinker, but to impose a high tax on drinkers who impose high social costs. When the effects of an action on third parties are heterogenous in this way. choosing an appropriate Pigouvian tax becomes tricky, and society may well feel a need for use of alternative or complementary policy tools.
  • RBA all but calls the dumb bubble — David Llewellyn-Smith quotes the Age quoting RBA Assistant Governor Michele Bullock: “We don’t want households to find themselves in a situation where they have to emergency sell or whatever because they can’t afford it any more.” In the past year Sydney prices had climbed 18 per cent and Melbourne prices have risen 13 per cent.
  • Careful Car Care Made Care Free - Tires and fluids! — Phil Are Go!:

Sunday, 9 July 2017 - 4:48pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 09/07/2017 - 4:48pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Listening — xkcd:
    Listening
  • Current Genres of Fate: "Hardwired" — Paul North, 3 Quarks Daily: Obviously "hardwired" is a way we talk. Like movies though, the way we talk tells us the secrets we keep. Newspaper headlines are also "talk"—they can be equally revealing. Even when the answer is no, we are not hard-wired to do this or that, just raising the question points right at our worry: are we hard-wired for this or that? (Look at "Are We Hard-Wired for War?" (NYT 9/28/13)). It's funny: "hard-wired" or as it's sometimes written—as if it were a technical term—"hardwired," is most often used in the press these days to talk about human psychology. It is, though, a metaphor. To date, no psychologist has discovered any "wires" in us.
  • Careful Car Care Made Care Free #3 - Hand signals — Phil Are Go!:
  • Domain plans data-driven mortgage and insurance push for post-float growth — Paul Smith at the AFR, part of the media wing of property bubble rider Fairfax: Speaking on a panel on the smart use of data at The Australian Financial Review Business Summit on Wednesday, Domain boss Antony Catalano flagged the potential for the company to dig deeper into the information it generates and tracks on house sellers or buyers in order to establish new mortgage and insurance businesses. […] "We have got so many data points that allow us to move out of being just a classified advertising business, into perhaps being a mortgage or insurance originator," Mr Catalano said. "Our business generates about $500 per property. If I can provide a bank with a loan ... there can be 10 times as much money in being a mortgage originator than there is in the advertising business."
  • The Basic Income and Job Guarantees are Complementary, not Opposing Policies — Brad Voracek: Most people who support BIG worry that a JG would create “make-work”, quoting Keynes famous “bury bank notes and dig them back up” line. To them, just giving people the bank notes makes more sense. On the other hand, JG proponents worry about not having the social utility of work. People want to contribute to society, and they see work that needs to be done. Both policies seem hard to pass in todays political climate.

Pages