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Sunday, 10 January 2016 - 6:10pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 10/01/2016 - 6:10pm in

This week, I have been mostly writing an essay I should have started a month earlier, but also reading:

  • Thinking About the Trumpthinkable — Alan Abramowitz via Paul Krugman in the NYT: If none of the totally crazy things he’s said up until now have hurt him among Republican voters, why would any crazy things he says in the next few months hurt him?
  • How Labour will secure the high-wage, hi-tech economy of the future — Chancellor-in-waiting John McDonnell in the Guardian: The OECD thinks a developed country such as Britain should be spending a minimum of 3.5% of GDP on infrastructure. A Labour government would exceed that commitment. At present companies are sitting on a £400bn cash pile. So we will also look to change the corporate tax system and work constructively with companies to give them incentives to invest wisely. But yes, he did really end with the punchline "It’s time to look to the future: socialism with an iPad." Urgh.
  • To Understand Climbing Death Rates Among Whites, Look To Women Of Childbearing Age — Laudan Aron, Lisa Dubay, Elaine Waxman, and Steven Martin at Health Affairs Blog say it's complicated: The causes and consequences of the US health disadvantage, especially among women, are much more complex and serious than this analysis suggests. […] Improving the conditions of life that shape the health of women and their families and social networks and that are contributing to the “epidemic of pain” is critical. Many systemic and environmental factors are likely at work behind these mortality trends, including unstable and low-paying jobs, a fraying social safety net, and other stressors. When life conditions undermine health or one’s ability to make healthy choices, we all suffer.
  • Donald Trump and the “F-Word” — Rick Perlstein at The Washington Spectator: My main interest, though, is that moment of symbiosis between man and mob. They feed off each other. The way his people eat up Trump’s unalloyed joy in bullying: the way a purse of his lips and a glance offstage summoned the security guard who ejected Univision’s Jorge Ramos from a press conference, like a casino pit boss with a whale who gets too handsy with the cocktail waitresses. Trump’s not-quite-veiled threat to Megyn Kelly: “I’ve been very nice to you, although I could probably maybe not be. But I wouldn’t do that.” The body language he uses to intimidate a hapless and plaintive Jeb Bush during the second Republican debate. If he’s just giving the people what they want, consider the people. Consider what they want.

Good grief! Is that all? Isn't there a danger the Internet will cease to exist if I'm not there?

Sunday, 3 January 2016 - 5:26pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 03/01/2016 - 5:26pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Pregnant Silence — George Monbiot explains why the big problem isn't the number of people; it's the number of other animals bred for those people to eat in their lifetime: Perhaps it’s no coincidence that so many post-reproductive white men are obsessed with human population growth, as it’s about the only environmental problem of which they can wash their hands.
  • Do we still need microfoundations? — Daniel Little. I've been thinking about this in both the economics and sociology contexts. As desirable as it would be to reduce macroeconomics to microeconomics and social forces to the actions of individuals, insisting on such a reconciliation before any work can be done would be like rejecting gravity until Einstein came along to explain Newton's spooky force as the geometry of spacetime. Or denying Einstein the bodge of the cosmological constant in special relativity, or forbidding the use of dark energy in contemporary cosmology. Of course you can take provisional place-holding assumptions to unhealthy extremes, for instance by insisting that your model works perfectly well under the conditions in which it works, and that everywhere else, it is reality which is at fault. (So that is why we didn't see the financial crisis coming, your majesty.)
  • Poor research-industry collaboration: time for blame or economic reality at work? — Glyn Davis: We need teams of managers with the expertise to translate promising early research into commercial development. […] These people – venture catalysts – could work with inventors to package opportunities for investors. ZOMG! MOAR MANAGERS!!!
  • The Most Perverse Story to Justify Inequality: The narrative of economic elites — Eric Michael Johnson, Evonomics: When we were children we wouldn’t have understood that using financial derivatives to repackage subprime loans in order to resell them as AAA-rated securities was an unfair thing to do. Few of us today (including members of the commission charged with overseeing the financial services industry) can even understand that now. But we did know it was unfair when our sibling got a bigger piece of pie than we did. We began life with a general moral sense of what was fair and equitable and we built onto the framework from there. Chimpanzees, according to this study, appear to have a similar moral sense. The intricacies of what we judge to be fair or unfair would seem to have more to do with human cognitive complexity than anything intrinsically unique to our species. In other words, what we’re witnessing here is a difference of degree rather than kind.
  • Bernie Sanders is a Socialist and So Are You — Ted Rall: Setting aside the rather idiotic idea of voting for a candidate because everyone else is voting for her […] I have to wonder whether an electorate that knows nothing about socialism is qualified to vote at all.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal:
  • MMT and Bernie Sanders — Randy Wray at New Economic Perspectives: I think people are enthusiastic to finally have a candidate who is not the Wall Street candidate. Bernie’s spending priorities match those of the vast majority of the population—and are not supported by the top 1% on Wall Street. I think that if elected Bernie would give us an updated version of Roosevelt’s New Deal. The original New Deal is what brought America into the 20th century. We need a similar effort to bring us into the 21st.
  • Yanis Varoufakis: Australia is a ‘plaything’ of world economic forces it cannot control — Martin Farrer in the Guardian: “Australia – especially Sydney and Melbourne – has always insulated itself from facts about the world. Aided and abetted by the remarkable flow of capital towards the property market in Sydney and Melbourne, it has created a false sense of wellbeing,” he told the Guardian.
  • “Socialism is as American as apple pie” — Bernie Sanders, via Occasional Links and Commentary: What this campaign, from my perspective, is about, and I say this in every speech that I give: It's not just electing Bernie Sanders to be president (and I surely would appreciate your support) but, very honestly, it is much more than that. Because no president, not Bernie Sanders or anybody else, can implement the kind of changes we need in this country unless millions of people begin to stand up and fight back.
  • Recently Bought a Windows Computer? Microsoft Probably Has Your Encryption Key — Micah Lee at the Intercept: One of the excellent features of new Windows devices is that disk encryption is built-in and turned on by default, protecting your data in case your device is lost or stolen. But what is less well-known is that, if you are like most users and login to Windows 10 using your Microsoft account, your computer automatically uploaded a copy of your recovery key — which can be used to unlock your encrypted disk — to Microsoft’s servers, probably without your knowledge and without an option to opt out.
  • DDoSing a regulator: A how-to manual from Facebook’s Free Basics — Rohin Dharmakumar, Times of India Blogs: […] a DDoS attack is one in which the perpetrators use a large number of unwitting PCs and servers to launch an attack on a site, so as to prevent the latter from serving its legitimate users and performing its stated function. What Facebook had carefully and deliberately crafted in India was a method to overwhelm [India’s apex telecom regulator] TRAI with a distributed set of responses that didn’t have anything to do with its consultation paper or questions.
  • Some Big Changes in Macroeconomic Thinking from Lawrence Summers — Adam S. Posen, Peterson Institute for International Economics RealTime Economic Issues Watch: In a working paper the Institute just released, Olivier Blanchard, Eugenio Cerutti, and Summers examine essentially all of the recessions in the OECD economies since the 1960s, and find strong evidence that in most cases the level of GDP is lower five to ten years afterward than any prerecession forecast or trend would have predicted. In other words, to quote Summers’ speech at our conference, “the classic model of cyclical fluctuations, that assume that they take place around the given trend is not the right model to begin the study of the business cycle. And [therefore]…the preoccupation of macroeconomics should be on lower frequency fluctuations that have consequences over long periods of time [that is, recessions and their aftermath].” The business cycle is dead. Hysteresis rules, OK?
  • The political aftermath of financial crises: Going to extremes — Manuel Funke, Moritz Schularick, Christoph Trebesch at The typical political reaction to financial crises is as follows: votes for far-right parties increase strongly, government majorities shrink, the fractionalisation of parliaments rises and the overall number of parties represented in parliament jumps. These developments likely hinder crisis resolution and contribute to political gridlock. The resulting policy uncertainty may contribute to the much-debated slow economic recoveries from financial crises.

Sunday, 27 December 2015 - 5:59pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 27/12/2015 - 5:59pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Islamic State’s Goal: “Eliminating the Grayzone” of Coexistence Between Muslims and the West — Murtaza Hussain, The Intercept: The [Charlie Hebdo] attack had “further [brought] division to the world,” the group said, boasting that it had polarized society and “eliminated the grayzone,” representing coexistence between religious groups. As a result, it said, Muslims living in the West would soon no longer be welcome in their own societies. Treated with increasing suspicion, distrust and hostility by their fellow citizens as a result of the deadly shooting, Western Muslims would soon be forced to “either apostatize … or they [migrate] to the Islamic State, and thereby escape persecution from the crusader governments and citizens,” the group stated, while threatening of more attacks to come.
  • From Pol Pot to ISIS: the blood never dried — John Pilger, On Line Opinion: The Americans dropped the equivalent of five Hiroshimas on rural Cambodia during 1969-73. They leveled village after village, returning to bomb the rubble and corpses. The craters left giant necklaces of carnage, still visible from the air. The terror was unimaginable. A former Khmer Rouge official described how the survivors "froze up and they would wander around mute for three or four days. Terrified and half-crazy, the people were ready to believe what they were told... That was what made it so easy for the Khmer Rouge to win the people over." A Finnish Government Commission of Inquiry estimated that 600,000 Cambodians died in the ensuing civil war and described the bombing as the "first stage in a decade of genocide". What Nixon and Kissinger began, Pol Pot, their beneficiary, completed.
  • Thrashing Not Swimming — Craig Murray: Indeed one of the many extraordinary features of this fervid political period is that the neo-cons (be they Tory or Blairite) who are so actively beating the drum for war, are the ones who absolutely refuse to acknowledge that the source of the poison is Saudi Arabia. Cameron today told Westminster that the head of the snake is in Raqqa. That is plainly untrue. The head of the snake is in Riyadh. But if your God is Mammon, that is blasphemy.
  • My Carpet Liquidation Center Really is Going Out of Business This Time — Patrick McKay at McSweeney's Internet Tendency: I’d always wanted to be a carpet liquidator. Way back when I first opened this place, I said, “Man, this is it. I’ve joined a community. I’m staying here forever.” The calendar pages dropped away as I made my home, waved to my neighbors, and swept the shattered glass below my driver’s side window every Monday morning. Then, it happened. Completely out of the blue, my carpet liquidation center that’d been going out of business for 11 straight years, was suddenly going out of business! And I never saw it coming!
  • Accumulate, accumulate! Or not — David F. Ruccio: What are U.S. corporations doing with all the surplus they’re managing to rake in? Well, they’re not investing it. Instead, they’re paying it out to shareholders and upper-management, buying back their stock and expanding their portfolios of financial assets, and hoarding the rest in cash. The net effect is to dampen the rate of economic growth and the creation of new jobs.
  • ‘On the first day of Christmas, my true love gave to me’ … a bunch of econ charts! — Jared Bernstein and Ben Spielberg. Including my favourites, US GDP hysteresis:

    … and the post-oil-shock pay/productivity gap:
  • First, second, and third order bias corrections — Andrew Gelman re-analyses the death rate data on middle-aged non-hispanic white Americans, which had provoked much scratching of heads (including mine). Apparently, apart from a small shift from 1998-2003, it's in line with what you'd expect as the baby boomers leave this cohort:

    Sadly, despite my successful completion of the third-year "Advanced Social Research" unit at SCU (where the definition of "advanced", and for that matter "university", departs from common usage), I still have had no instruction in elementary statistics, so I can't comment on the validity of these corrections.
  • The Dangers of the Gates Foundation: Displacing Seeds and Farmers — From a presentation by Mariam Mayet, Other Worlds: Monsanto and Pioneer Hi Bred, both US multinational companies, control most of the hybrid maize market in southern Africa. Through the acquisition of South Africa’s maize company, Panaar Seed, by Pioneer HiBred, hybrid pioneer [seeds] will make a lot of incursions [elsewhere] into Africa. We see and fear a great deal of social dislocation, of collapse of our farming systems – and it’s already happened. In industrialized-agriculture countries like South Africa, farmers have become completely deskilled and divorced from production decisions, which are made in laboratories or in far-away board rooms. The Gates Foundation is a crony capitalist scam, not a charity.
  • The problem with self-driving cars: who controls the code? — Cory Doctorow in The Guardian: A car is a high-speed, heavy object with the power to kill its users and the people around it. A compromise in the software that allowed an attacker to take over the brakes, accelerator and steering (such as last summer’s exploit against Chrysler’s Jeeps, which triggered a 1.4m vehicle recall) is a nightmare scenario. The only thing worse would be such an exploit against a car designed to have no user-override – designed, in fact, to treat any attempt from the vehicle’s user to redirect its programming as a selfish attempt to avoid the Trolley Problem’s cold equations. Whatever problems we will have with self-driving cars, they will be worsened by designing them to treat their passengers as adversaries.
  • Pirate Bay Founder Builds The Ultimate Piracy Machine — Ernesto Van der Sar at TorrentFreak: One of Peter [Sunde]’s major frustrations is how the entertainment industries handles the idea of copying. When calculating the losses piracy costs, they often put too much value on pirated copies. […] The “Kopimashin” makes 100 copies of the Gnarls Barkely track “Crazy” every second. This translates to more than eight million copies per day and roughly $10 million in ‘losses.’ […] The Kopimashin does make real copies of the track, but they are sent to /dev/null, which means that they are not permanently stored. The most important message, however, is that the millions of dollars in losses the industry claims from him and the other TPB founders are just as fictitious as the number displayed on the Kopimashin.
  • Australia – wages growth at record low as redistribution to profits continues — Bill Mitchell: What is clear is that since the September-quarter 1997, real wages have grown by only 11.4 per cent (so just over 0.6 per cent on average per year), whereas hourly labour productivity has grown by 28.9 per cent (or 1.7 per cent on average per year). This is a massive redistribution of national income to profits and away from wage-earners and the gap is widening each quarter.

Sunday, 20 December 2015 - 9:20pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 20/12/2015 - 9:20pm in

This week, I have been mostly miserable and sleeping my way out through it, but also reading:

  • You may soon need a licence to take photos of that classic designer chair you bought — Glyn Moody at Ars Technica UK: Changes to UK copyright law will soon mean that you may need to take out a licence to photograph classic designer objects even if you own them. That's the result of the Enterprise and Regulatory Reform Act 2013, which extends the copyright of artistic objects like designer chairs from 25 years after they were first marketed to 70 years after the creator's death. In most cases, that will be well over a hundred years after the object was designed. During that period, taking a photo of the item will often require a licence from the copyright owner regardless of who owns the particular object in question.
  • Lightbulb DRM: Philips Locks Purchasers Out Of Third-Party Bulbs With Firmware Update — Tim Cushing at Techdirt: The world of connected devices is upon us and things have never been better. Criminals can access your email account by breaking into your fridge. Your child's toys and your television record your conversations and send them to manufacturers' servers, where criminals are (again) able to access them. Your home thermostat goes HAL 9000 and attempts to set your house on fire. And, now, your lightbulbs won't do the one thing you expect them to do: produce light.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal:
  • Young people who question Government or media may be extremists, officials tell parents — Jon Stone, The Independent: A leaflet drawn up by an inner-city child safeguarding board warns that “appearing angry about government policies, especially foreign policies” is a sign “specific to radicalisation”. Parents and carers have also been advised by the safeguarding children board in the London Borough of Camden that “showing a mistrust of mainstream media reports and a belief in conspiracy theories” could be a sign that children are being groomed by extremists. Scarfolk is alive and well in Camden.
  • Caring doesn't scale — Brian Sletten in the service of O'Reilly's ego: If the cost of integration falls to almost nothing it becomes easier to support casual interactions. They may turn into more formal, long-lived integrations down the road, but for now we can exchange information with anyone at any time about any subject for way less effort than you probably can imagine given the pains you have seen elsewhere. Our ability to do anything with this information isn't immediately guaranteed, but freeing it from silos is the first step.

Sunday, 13 December 2015 - 5:23pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 13/12/2015 - 5:23pm in

This week, I have been mostly letting the reading slide, with some exceptions:

  • To Weld, Perchance, to Dream — Simon Critchley in the New York Times: The pre-Socratic thinker Thales falls into a ditch because he’s too busy contemplating the heavens and their origins. A Thracian serving girl is said to have laughed heartily at Thales’ pratfall. And that’s how I like to think about philosophy: it doesn’t so much begin in the confined elegance of Oxbridge tutorials as in a ditch with a nasty bruise on one’s head and possibly some ligament damage.
  • It's Too Late to Turn Off Trump — Matt Taibbi is mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, in Rolling Stone: This world of schlock stereotypes and EZ solutions is the one experience a pampered billionaire can share with all of those "paycheck-to-paycheck" voters the candidates are always trying to reach. TV is the ultimate leveling phenomenon. It makes everyone, rich and poor, equally incapable of dealing with reality.
  • Do Not Ask Western Leadership to Fix Anything — Ian Welsh: If you want to fix any problem in the West, or have the West be helpful for fixing any global problem, you need to fix the Western leadership class. That means fixing Western media, education, corporations, etc, etc. The list is long, because they have deliberately broken virtually everything to turn it into an opportunity for a very few people to become richer. If you are British, you have a decent, honorable man who actually wants to do almost all the right things: Corbyn. Get to work supporting him, however you can. If he goes down, the political class will take it as a lesson that trying to help ordinary people is a really bad idea.
  • One Night in Kunduz, One Morning in New York — Laura Gottesdiener, TomDispatch: At 2:56 a.m., on the morning of the attack, an MSF representative in Kabul again texted an official of the American-led mission, demanding an end to the strikes, which had lasted nearly an hour. By then, flames had overtaken the main building, with children still trapped inside. Abdul Manar, a caretaker at the hospital, recalled the sound of their cries. "I could hear them screaming for help inside the hospital while it was set ablaze by the bombing," he told Al Jazeera.
  • Hysteresis and Monetary Policy — Bill Craighead: In macroeconomics, hysteresis occurs when an economic downturn has a lasting effect on economic capacity (i.e., reduced "potential output"); that is, lack of demand creates its own lack of supply. […] People with spells of long-term unemployment have a harder time finding jobs. But looking at the unemployed leaves out those who left the labor force entirely. The last several years have seen a significant drop in labor force participation rates, even among people aged 25-54. […] the unemployment (and presumably the depressed participation rate, too) is "structural" in nature, and not amenable to any improvement in aggregate demand that might be generated with expansionary monetary policy.

Sunday, 6 December 2015 - 6:58pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 06/12/2015 - 6:58pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Leftie Come Lately — Ted Rall:
    The case against Bernie Sanders is that he's too far left to be electable. Now, however, Hillary Clinton is stealing all his ideas, like opposing the TPP and Keystone XL pipeline. Shouldn't that make her unelectable too?
  • How New Zealand fell further behind — John Quiggin in Inside Story: Australians of all political persuasions understand that “reform” is code for harder work, lower pay and a more unequal distribution of income, and “austerity” means cuts in tax for the rich and cuts in services and benefits for everyone else. On these criteria, we are indeed trailing most of the English-speaking world. All the advocates of reform and austerity need to do now is convince us that these countries are outperforming us on the measures that count. This is difficult, to put it mildly.
  • Dream of New Kind of Credit Union Is Extinguished by Bureaucracy — Nathaniel Popper, NYT: The only good thing about Bitcoin is that it keeps the avaricious and gullible so preoccupied that they are limited in the harm they can do to anyone else. However, killing off a Brewster Kahle project is like kneecapping Santa Claus on December 24th. 'The original vision of this thing — of helping nonprofit workers, or helping the poor — they will not allow it,' Mr. Kahle said.
  • Modern Monetary Theory and Value Capture — Bill Mitchell: Public sector infrastructure developments push up land values in nearby areas and deliver windfall gains to land owners sometimes well in excess of the initial outlays required to fund the project in question. […] Land Value Capture this aims to ensure that those who gain windfall profits from land holdings that skyrocket in value because of a particular government decision (rezoning, infrastructure project etc) pay for some or all of the project.
  • Moral Blankness — George Monbiot: In leaked correspondence with the Conservative leader of Oxfordshire County Council (which covers his own constituency), David Cameron expresses his horror at the cuts being made to local services. This is the point at which you realise that he has no conception of what he has done.
  • Gendering The Making of Modern Finance? — Adrienne Roberts at Progress in Political Economy makes some intriguing observations about and around this year's blockbuster book of historical political economy. For example: Like all financial frauds, the practice of shaving metal off the edges of coins is inextricably tied to the social markers of gender and class. Women’s participation in this practice was conditioned by their relation with the market and with silver, which, as Knafo points out, was associated with daily transactions, whereas gold was associated with mercantile activities.
  • What if the adventure chooses you? — Jonathan Rees: Personalized learning, the pitch goes, allows professors to spend less time doing things that others can do better (like lecture), you can spend more time helping students learn. Unfortunately, like Lucy and Ethel in that chocolate factory back in the 1950s, it is easy for your employers to speed up your line by giving you more students – particularly if you work in an online setting where the size of the classroom is no longer a limiting factor. "Professor"? What's a professor?
  • The Philanthropy Hustle — Linsey McGoey in Jacobin: In 2014, the Gates Foundation announced an $11 million grant to Mastercard to establish a financial inclusion “lab” in Nairobi, Kenya. The grant will last three years, after which Mastercard has indicated that, should the venture prove sufficiently lucrative, the company may be willing to foot the bill for further financial expansion in the region. […] The gift to Mastercard — and it is a gift, rather than a loan or an equity investment — is the latest in a long list of donations that the Gates Foundation has offered to the world’s wealthiest corporations. From Vodafone, a British company notorious for paying zero corporate tax in the United Kingdom, to leading education companies such as Scholastic Inc., the Gates Foundation doesn’t simply partner with for-profit companies: it subsidizes their bottom-line.
  • Friction is now between global financial elite and the rest of us — Robert Reich in the Guardian: Fifty years ago, when General Motors was the largest employer in America, the typical GM worker earned $35 an hour in today’s dollars. By 2014, America’s largest employer was Walmart and the typical entry-level Walmart worker earned about $9 an hour. This does not mean the typical GM employee half a century ago was “worth” four times what the typical Walmart employee in 2014 was worth. The GM worker was not better educated or motivated than the Walmart worker. The real difference was that GM workers 50 years ago had a strong union behind them that summoned the collective bargaining power of all carworkers to get a substantial share of company revenues for its members.
  • Republicans’ Lust for Gold — Paul Krugman, NYT: [T]he Friedman compromise — trash-talking government activism in general, but asserting that monetary policy is different — has proved politically unsustainable. You can’t, in the long run, keep telling your base that government bureaucrats are invariably incompetent, evil or both, then say that the Fed, which is, when all is said and done, basically a government agency run by bureaucrats, should be left free to print money as it sees fit.
  • Friday lay day – Is MMT applicable to the Eurozone? — Bill Mitchell provides an introduction to the German translation of Warren Mosler's book The Seven Deadly Innocent Frauds of Economic Policy, which also serves as a handy summary of same: The use of the term – Innocent Frauds – is Mosler’s generous interpretation of the way that these myths emerge and are sustained in the public domain. […] Among this list of dolts who push ‘innocently’ these tawdry lies are “mainstream economists, the media, and most of all, politicians”. One could easily dispute the presumption of innocence. There is ample evidence that across each of these cohorts a more sinister agenda pervades – one that is centred on class control and developing conditions that permit the maximum redistribution of national income to the top end of the income distribution.
  • Students Left in Crushing Debt as For-Profit College Empire Collapses — Mark Karlin, Buzzflash: But the higher ed. bubble isn't burst till the public system goes under…

Sunday, 29 November 2015 - 11:25am

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 29/11/2015 - 11:25am in
  • Internet or Intifada? — Shlomo Ben-Ami, Project Syndicate: According to Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu, the ongoing wave of knife attacks on Jews by young Palestinian “lone wolves” can be blamed entirely on incitement by Palestinian Authority and Islamist websites. Netanyahu evidently expects Israelis, and the world, to believe that if these sites were posting cat videos, the Palestinians would cease their agitation and submit quietly to occupation.
  • What We Know About the Computer Formulas Making Decisions in Your Life — Lauren Kirchner, ProPublica: Sophisticated algorithms are now being used to make decisions in everything from criminal justice to education. But when big data uses bad data, discrimination can result. […] Here are a few good stories that have contributed to our understanding of this relatively new field.
  • The Ever-Growing Ed-Tech Market — Angela Chen, The Atlantic: The testing and assessment market, which raked in $2.5 billion during the reported year, was the single largest category of any segment. The assessment market increased so quickly because of the growth of test-friendly Common Core standards a few years back when this data was being collected, Billings explained. She added that—given President Barack Obama’s recent push to limit testing in schools—the segment may soon see a testing pushback that will hurt revenue down the road.
  • The Most Brazen Corporate Power Grab in American History — Chris Hedges in Truthdig: Wages will decline. Working conditions will deteriorate. Unemployment will rise. Our few remaining rights will be revoked. The assault on the ecosystem will be accelerated. Banks and global speculation will be beyond oversight or control. Food safety standards and regulations will be jettisoned. Public services ranging from Medicare and Medicaid to the post office and public education will be abolished or dramatically slashed and taken over by for-profit corporations. Prices for basic commodities, including pharmaceuticals, will skyrocket. Social assistance programs will be drastically scaled back or terminated. And countries that have public health care systems, such as Canada and Australia, that are in the agreement will probably see their public health systems collapse under corporate assault.
  • Ongoing crises of capitalism — David F. Ruccio:
    This persistent crisis of capitalism, which was ignored by mainstream economists, also challenges the mainstream traditions of explaining business cycles by technology shocks and of separating long-term growth dynamics from short-run business cycles.
  • Workers’ Control in Academia — Jonathan Rees in The Academe Blog: Faculty-centered online education can be both convenient for students and pedagogically innovative. Quite simply, professors can do extraordinary things using digital tools in online, hybrid and regular face-to-face classes. Unfortunately, that assumes that their administrators let them. If the online course universe is controlled by Associate Deans trying to make a name for themselves and populated entirely by adjunct faculty who cannot control their own courses, these minor technological miracles are unlikely to happen.
  • Is economics a science? — Invisible hand-waving: For Lakatos, the hallmark of a ‘progressive’ scientific research programme is not whether it is falsifiable. […] Rather, the hallmark of a progressive scientific research programme is whether or not the theory makes successful novel predictions. In other words, is the theory is able to successfully predict new phenomena which it was not originally built to explain?
  • Limits of the profit motive — Chris Dillow: My point here is not to decry the profit motive. It has a place. But that place must be circumscribed not only by the regulation of predatory capitalism but also by greater socialization of investment to exploit and develop new technologies and by a more widespread ownership of capital - via worker ownership, a sovereign wealth fund or more widespread participation in equity markets.
  • Edward Snowden Explains How To Reclaim Your Privacy — Micah Lee at The Intercept: It's scary how few of these things I do, even though I know better.
  • Beware of ads that use inaudible sound to link your phone, TV, tablet, and PC — Dan Goodin, Ars Technica: The ultrasonic pitches are embedded into TV commercials or are played when a user encounters an ad displayed in a computer browser. While the sound can't be heard by the human ear, nearby tablets and smartphones can detect it. When they do, browser cookies can now pair a single user to multiple devices and keep track of what TV commercials the person sees, how long the person watches the ads, and whether the person acts on the ads by doing a Web search or buying a product.
  • I was held hostage by Isis. They fear our unity more than our airstrikes — Nicolas Hénin in the Guardian: Why France? For many reasons perhaps, but I think they identified my country as a weak link in Europe – as a place where divisions could be sown easily. That’s why, when I am asked how we should respond, I say that we must act responsibly. And yet more bombs will be our response.
  • The Cannibalized Company — Karen Brettell, David Gaffen and David Rohde for Reuters: Share repurchases are part of what economists describe as the increasing “financialization” of the U.S. corporate sector, whereby investment in financial instruments increasingly crowds out other types of investment.
  • Privatisations: why we need a fiscal watchdog — Simon Wren-Lewis: The key point with privatisations is that reducing current debt may harm the health of the public finances. Any normal investor would only sell an asset if they thought they could get a price that exceeded what the asset was really worth. Although selling the asset would reduce the government’s net borrowing today, it would increase their net borrowing in the future because the government would not get the dividends the shares paid out.
  • 'Economic Policy Splits Democrats' — Mark Thoma at Economist's View: So, should I adopt a message I don't think is true because it sells with independents who have been swayed by Very Serious People, or should I say what I believe and try to convince people they are barking up the wrong tree? (For the most part anyway, I believe both the technological/globalization and institutional/unfairness explanations have validity -- but how do workers capture the gains Third Way wants to create through growth and wealth creation without the bargaining power they have lost over time with the decline in unionization, threats of offshoring, etc.? That's the bigger problem.)
  • Reform Won’t Do It, Australian Universities Need Revolution — Kristen Lyons and Richard Hil in New Matilda: If, as community economy advocates argue, non-market (including household) activities represent an estimated 30 to 50 per cent of all work, then why do universities continually genuflect to market principles? And given that non-market work has a potentially greater impact on social wellbeing, why don’t we take more time to understand its value in education and other domains? There is plenty of evidence to suggest that such non-market practices – including the diverse activities that make up the informal and exchange economy – are not only basic to meeting human needs, but can (through a more civic orientation) contribute significantly to the “good life”, with educators and students playing their part as active change agents.
  • The End of the Humanities? — Martha Nussbaum interviewed by James Garvey for The Philosophers' Magazine: “Philosophy is constitutive of good citizenship. It’s not just a means to it. It becomes part of what you are when you are a good citizen – a thoughtful person. Philosophy has many roles. It can be just fun, a game that you play. It can be a way you try to approach your own death or illness or that of a family member. It has a wide range of functions in human life. Some of them are connected to ethics, and some of them are not. Logic itself is beautiful. I’m just focusing on the place where I think I can win over people, and say ‘Look here, you do care about democracy don’t you? Then you’d better see that philosophy has a place.’”
  • Reading The Making of Modern Finance as an Invitation to Critical Uses of History — Christine Desan, Progress in Political Economy: The modern monetary system depends, then, on a kind of cash that depends on public debt. But the value of public debt depends in turn on the value attributed to cash. In other words, there is an irreducibly political aspect to the most basic medium of the market. There is no working exchange without a governance decision (and constant re-decision) about the value of money.
  • Private infrastructure finance and secular stagnation — John Quiggin at Crooked Timber: The financialization of the global economy has produced a hugely costly financial sector, extracting returns that must, in the end, be taken out of the returns to investment of all kinds. The costs were hidden during the pre-crisis bubble era, but are now evident to everyone, including potential investors. So, even massively expansionary monetary policy doesn’t produce much in the way of new private investment.
  • Decoding the Design of Money — Christine Desan provides a précis of her new book, which sounds like a corker: Corrected for inflation, the modern money supply in England is more than 65-times larger than it was when the Bank was established. That abundance follows from the modern mode of money creation: rather than bringing bullion to the mint, an applicant brings a promise of productivity to a banker. If the industry now in charge of the money supply finds the pitch credible, money issues. […] Just as striking, the modern design for money creation renders the system susceptible to new fragilities, given its reliance on finance-based expansion. Rather than the harsh limits on liquidity that haunted the Middle Ages, we have the booms and busts, the bubbles and bank runs associated with a money supply based on fiat credit creation and cleared in a far smaller reserve comprised of the sovereign unit of account.
  • First They Jailed the Bankers, Now Every Icelander to Get Paid in Bank Sale — Claire Bernish, Anti-Media: If Finance Minister Bjarni Benediktsson has his way — and he likely will — Icelanders will be paid kr 30,000 after the government takes over ownership of the bank. […] Because Icelanders took control of their government, they effectively own the banks. Benediktsson believes this will bring foreign capital into the country and ultimately fuel the economy — which, incidentally, remains the only European nation to recover fully from the 2008 crisis. Iceland even managed to pay its outstanding debt to the IMF in full — in advance of the due date.
  • Despair, American Style — Paul Krugman, NYT: Basically, white Americans are, in increasing numbers, killing themselves, directly or indirectly. Suicide is way up, and so are deaths from drug poisoning and the chronic liver disease that excessive drinking can cause. We’ve seen this kind of thing in other times and places – for example, in the plunging life expectancy that afflicted Russia after the fall of Communism. But it’s a shock to see it, even in an attenuated form, in America.
  • A shift towards industry-relevant degrees isn’t helping students get jobs — Richard Hil and Kristen Lyons, the Conversation: Skills and knowledge “competencies”, “attributes” and other measures of performance have turned traditionally accepted pedagogical priorities like “critical thinking” into commodities marketed at prospective employers through e-portfolios and job-ready CVs. Although the humanities, arts and social sciences continue to make up two-thirds of the undergraduate intake, these areas have been subjected to deep cuts or, as in the case of La Trobe University, fine-tuned to meet industry needs, or abandoned altogether (as occurred at QUT) in favour of “creative industries”.

Sunday, 22 November 2015 - 2:10pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 22/11/2015 - 2:10pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

Sunday, 15 November 2015 - 6:19pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 15/11/2015 - 6:19pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • Faith in an Unregulated Free Market? Don’t Fall for It - Bob Shiller plugs his latest book in the New York Times: [T]he problem of market-incentivized professional manipulation and deception is fundamental, not an externality. In short, the superiority of untrammeled free markets — the fundamental theorem of welfare economics — has taken on the aura of a law from the heavens. Yet technology has advanced so that temptations are being manipulated ever more effectively. In fact, the real success of economies that embody free markets has much to do with the heroic efforts of campaigners for better values, both among private organizations and advocates of government regulation.
  • Cynical workforce participation policy forces solo parents into ranks of unemployed - Warwick Smith: I call this “pushing on a piece of string” for good reason. Unemployment in Australia is at 6.2 per cent. There are many more people looking for work than there are jobs. So, I’d be very keen to hear how pushing more single parents and grandparents into the job market is going to be a positive thing for this country or for the individuals concerned. Taking away payments from everyone because of the actions of a tiny minority is the kind of collective punishment that society long ago abandoned in every other sphere of life.
  • Grattan Institute advocates cutting university research funding - John Quiggin: Finally, lets come back to Norton’s rejection of the centuries-old scholar-teacher model in favor of a teaching-only approach. His defence of this position “the evidence that it improves teaching is less clear” is not exactly robust. Against this we can observe that worldwide, there are in fact plenty of examples of both teaching-only and research-intensive institutions. Nearly all are nominally funded on a per-student basis, whether through fees, government subsidies or both. So, what does the market test, which Norton ought to favor tell us. The answer is that students are beating down the doors of the research-intensive unis. Teaching-only schools are the second choice for nearly everyone. Certainly a large part of my motivation to enrol was the prospect of meeting people who are doing interesting work. Of course now I'd just settle for meeting people. Or a person, at some stage.
  • Anthony Albanese Is Not Too Left Wing To Win Government. Indeed, He’s About Right - John Passant in New Matilda: A genuine left wing party of the working class in Australia has not yet developed. Until it does we will remain in the Sisyphean oscillations between neoliberal Labor and pro-austerity Liberal governments. Because Albanese is no Jeremy Corbyn. I have both Bernie Sanders' hair and Jeremy Corbyn's beard. Just saying that, if called upon to serve as PM, I would very carefully consider what is in the best interests of the country, and what would give me a lavish pension for the rest of my life.
  • Aren't we all Guatemala? - Pedro Abramovay, openDemocracy: Guatemala is the radical expression of a crisis affecting almost every country in Latin America. The last decades have witnessed huge progress (depending on the country) in transparency policies, thanks to the strengthening of anti-corruption institutions and a new kind of citizen mobilization, highly demanding and autonomous, independent of the traditional parties and movements. The great promise was that this would alter, by itself, the political culture of corruption in our countries. This has not happened. Neither in Guatemala, nor in Chile, nor in Mexico, nor in Brazil.
  • Own a Vizio Smart TV? It’s Watching You - Julia Angwin, ProPublica: Vizio’s technology works by analyzing snippets of the shows you’re watching, whether on traditional television or streaming Internet services such as Netflix. Vizio determines the date, time, channel of programs — as well as whether you watched them live or recorded. The viewing patterns are then connected your IP address - the Internet address that can be used to identify every device in a home, from your TV to a phone.
  • The replication crisis has engulfed economics - Andreas Ortmann, The Conversation: The upshot is that even under the best of circumstances – one data set, what seems like a straightforward question to answer, and an exchange of ideas on the best method – arriving at consensus can be extraordinarily difficult. And it surely becomes even more difficult with multiple data sets and many teams.
  • With idle labour equal to 14.5 per cent, the fiscal deficit is too low - Bill Mitchell: Taken together, this data tells me that the fiscal deficit in Australia is well below what a responsible government should aspire to provide the Australian economy. I say provide in the sense that a fiscal deficit provides spending support to Australian businesses which allows them to employ people. If the current spending patterns of the non-government sector is delivering the sort of outcomes articulated in the list above, then we know that the fiscal support to the economy is inadequate. After we acknowledge that point then we can have a discussion about what the composition of the fiscal deficit should look like – that is, how much government consumption and investment spending there should be.
  • Another Money Is Possible, Part I: Will the ScotPound Succeed As A Parallel Currency? - Steve Rushton at A neat little primer on a few tools in the heterodox economic kit. Part two is Avoid the Next Financial Crash with People's Q.E., and part three is Holland Leads Experiment In Basic Income.
  • Why we should give free money to everyone - Rutger Bregman, De Correspondent, a nice, comprehensive look at UBI, cited by Rushton in the above: After decades of authorities’ fruitless pushing, pulling, fines and persecution, eleven notorious vagrants finally moved off the streets. Costs? 50,000 pounds a year, including the wages of the aid workers. In addition to giving eleven individuals another shot at life, the project had saved money by a factor of at least 7. Even The Economist concluded: ‘The most efficient way to spend money on the homeless might be to give it to them.’
  • Why do we tax goods and services at the same rate, when goods are so much less sustainable? - Angie Silva and Talia Raphaely from Curtin, in The Conversation: It is not hard to see why the world is awash with trash. In the United States, for instance, 80% of all goods are non-reusable, and more than 90% become waste within six weeks. Australians, meanwhile, currently produce the second most waste per person in the world.
  • In Defense of the Late Ahmad Chalabi - Jon Schwarz, The Intercept: Chalabi was also a source for much of the New York Times’ atrocious reporting on Iraq’s non-existent weapons of mass destruction, and was mentioned by name when the Times was finally forced to apologize. Moreover, he couldn’t have been much more in your face about it afterward, charmingly explaining in 2004 that “We are heroes in error. As far as we’re concerned we’ve been entirely successful. That tyrant Saddam is gone and the Americans are in Baghdad. What was said before is not important.” But if Americans want to blame someone for the Iraq War, we should be looking closer to home — at Bush, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell and ourselves. As former CIA officer Robert Baer put it: “Chalabi was scamming the U.S. because the U.S. wanted to be scammed.”
  • Intellectual property rights and artistic creativity - Petra Moser, VoxEU: [Data] suggests that extensions in the length of copyright beyond the duration of the author’s life create a negligible increase in income for the average author. Instead, copyright extensions only benefit the authors of an extremely small number of exceptionally long-lived works. To the extent that it is difficult to predict which types of works will continue to be popular 100 years after their original creation, copyright extensions are unlikely to encourage rational investments in creative work.
  • Water Delivery - xkcd
    Water Delivery
  • The Invention of Pad Thai - Alex Mayyasi, Priceonomics: Yet [Prime Minister] Phibun took each and every part of his cultural campaign seriously. The National Cultural Act listed penalties for violating its edicts. Even as World War II began, he used a radio address to tell Thais, “Our dear ladies must not think that it is not necessary to wear hats in times of war. Now more than ever is it essential to go on wearing hats.”

Sunday, 8 November 2015 - 3:11pm

Published by Matthew Davidson on Sun, 08/11/2015 - 3:11pm in

This week, I have been mostly reading:

  • In defence of the annoying mature-age student - Stephen Owen in The Guardian (via @tregeagle): Almost all of them are amazed at the world of ideas into which they have arrived, and in which they are receiving the sort of intellectual nourishment that they thought was strictly for people other than themselves. This was also my experience; it turns out that mature-age study is transformative and can make you feel more at home with the world and with yourself, even if it can lead to risky behaviours (like postmodernism).
  • Seumas Milne and His Swivel-Eyed Detractors - John Wight in CounterPunch: Now the reason it is important to establish these salient ‘facts’ about Seumas Milne and his career is that his recent appointment by Jeremy Corbyn as his press and strategy chief has unleashed such a chorus of condemnation and calumniation – by a constituency of right wing hacks, former Trotskyists turned right wing bloggers, and embittered failed Labour candidates, among others – you could be forgiven for thinking we are talking about Charles Manson rather than one of the most esteemed journalists this country has every produced.
  • Australian education fails one in four young people – but not the wealthy ones - Stephen Lamb in The Conversation: The results show that while Australia’s highest-achieving students – who are more likely to be drawn from wealthier families – may be among the best in the world, there are vast differences in educational outcomes across social groups, challenging Australia’s claim of a fair education system.
  • Could a new ‘basic income’ protect Australia’s most vulnerable? - Ben Spies-Butcher in The Conversation: Bernie Sanders is promoting "single payer" as "Medicare for all". Could UBI be Australia's "means-tested pension for all"?
  • Martin, A Quick Word - Dan Hind skewers Martin Amis: For all their faults, Corbyn and his contemporaries on the left of the Labour party – the Bennities, let’s call them – were campaigning for equality at home and abroad. What a laugh, I know! But the things they marched for – anti-racism, gay rights, democracy in Africa and Latin America – they were right about those things, weren’t they, at a time when a lot of people were for various reasons wrong? The monosyllabic bigots were wrong, of course. But those who eloquently insisted that these things were distractions from the purity of class struggle were wrong, too.
  • Causes and consequences of persistently low interest rates - Sir Charles Bean at VoxEU: This downward trend in the underlying world real interest rate had attracted the attention of policymakers even before the Crisis, with Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan describing it as a “conundrum”, while Fed Chairman-to-be Ben Bernanke subsequently attributed it to a “savings glut”, most notably in China (Bernanke 2005). Other authors, such as Larry Summers (2014), have focused on the other side of the market for loanable funds, suggesting that a decline in the propensity to invest is to blame, linking it also to the slowdown in output growth.
  • The Islamic State meets the laws of economics - Felix Imonti in On Line Opinion: The solution chosen by the caliphate is to turn to the gold Dinar that has as much symbolic value as is does as a means of financing the society. While gold speaks of wealth and security in the minds of most people, there is a hazard in adopting a gold currency. The value of the gold coins comes from the quality of gold metal and not from the quality of the issuer. Anyone doubting the longevity of the caliphate will be inclined to horde the coins under a rock somewhere or smuggle the coins outside. The loss of money from the economy will translate into an overall deflation as the scarcity of money raises its value; and that is likely to depress the economy even further.
  • Heat Too Hot to Survive - Ian Welsh: People rag on about how bad Communism was, how many deaths it caused, but they never properly add up capitalism’s deaths. The deaths resulting from the environmental crisis, however, will make capitalism anathema to our children.
  • Postal Banks Are People’s Banks: 6 Things You Need To Know About Postal Banking - Matt Stannard at It’s being called “Bernie’s Brilliant Idea,”, and Bernie Sanders’s embrace of postal banking is indeed brilliant, both in timing and substance. But while his insurgent presidential campaign may give a credible boost to USPS financial services, Sanders’s endorsement is far from sufficient. To make postal banking happen requires a broad, mass coalition willing to keep pushing the issue regardless of the outcome of the 2016 elections.
  • The Despotic Temptation - Ana Palacio, Project Syndicate: Unfortunately, Western leaders have repeatedly shown that they lack the patience and dedication needed to engage consistently and humbly with communities in crisis-stricken countries or to provide the reliable, incremental, and prolonged governance assistance needed to prevent state collapse. With their short attention spans and heightened sense of their own importance, they prefer the option of simply installing a despot to deal with it. They need to get over themselves – for everyone’s sake.
  • Britain is heading for another 2008 crash: here’s why - David Graeber:
    Notice how the pattern is symmetrical? The top is an exact mirror of the bottom. This is what’s called an “accounting identity”. One goes up, the other must, necessarily, go down. What this means is that if the government declares “we must act responsibly and pay back the national debt” and runs a budget surplus, then it (the public sector) is taking more money in taxes out of the private sector than it’s paying back in. That money has to come from somewhere. So if the government runs a surplus, the private sector goes into deficit. If the government reduces its debt, everyone else has to go into debt in exactly that proportion in order to balance their own budgets.
  • Why Are We Hearing So Much about Those Damn Danes? - Josh Hoxie, OtherWords: While I doubt Americans will embrace the Danes’ love for pickled fish, I’m hopeful we might connect the dots between their successful social outcomes and their progressive public policies. Also, in Scandinavia there are so many programs, on radio and television, about the fish.
  • The Okinawa missiles of October - Aaron Tovish, Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists via The Intercept: By Bordne's account, at the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, Air Force crews on Okinawa were ordered to launch 32 missiles, each carrying a large nuclear warhead. Only caution and the common sense and decisive action of the line personnel receiving those orders prevented the launches—and averted the nuclear war that most likely would have ensued.
  • Al-Qaeda, ISIS, and the wider fallout from the Iraq invasion - David Morrison: Baroness Manningham-Buller confirmed to the Chilcot inquiry that the government was warned in advance that there was likely to be a heightened threat from al-Qaeda as a result of British participation in the invasion of Iraq. She agreed that her judgment prior to the invasion was that “a war in Iraq would aggravate the [terrorist] threat from whatever source to the United Kingdom” (p31) and that “there wasn't any particular controversy amongst the intelligence agencies about that judgment” (p32).
  • Malnutrition and 'Victorian' diseases soaring in England 'due to food poverty and cuts' - Dean Kirby, The Independent And…
  • Starving Irish people pleading for food from soup kitchen as last resort - Sasha Brady,
  • Check Out Our Low, Low (Natural) Rates - Paul Krugman, NYT: [Laubach and Williams] attribute the decline in the natural rate largely to the slowing of potential output, which in turn reflects demography and what looks like a slowdown in technological progress. That’s more speculative. But the low natural rate is as solid a result as anything in real time can be. This in turn tells you several things. It says that all the complaints that the Fed is artificially keeping rates low are nonsense; rates are low because that’s what the real economy wants, and the Fed’s only alternative would be to create a depression.
  • The Pain in Spain - Simon Tilford at Project Syndicate: Spain’s recovery is not quite what it seems, and there is scant evidence that what progress the country has made is the result of austerity and reforms. In fact, far from adhering to the usual austerity narrative – according to which fiscal consolidation revives business confidence and thus investment and job creation – Spain’s return to growth partly reflects the easing of austerity since early 2014. The country has sensibly resisted pressure from the European Commission to take more aggressive steps to reduce its deficit, which, at 5.9% of GDP, was the European Union’s third highest last year.
  • The Tragedy of Ben Bernanke - Brad DeLong at Project Syndicate: “It seems unlikely that the influence of [monetary] policy on the rate of interest will be sufficient by itself,” Keynes wrote in 1936. “I conceive, therefore, that a somewhat comprehensive socialization of investment will prove the only means of securing an approximation to full employment.” Those are words worth considering the next time we find ourselves needing the courage to act.
  • When Does Technological Advancement Actually Lead to Prosperity? - Ian Welsh: Productivity in America rose 80.4 percent from 1973 to 2011, but median real wages rose only 10.2 percent and median male wages rose 0.1 percent. (4) This was not the case from 1948 to 1973, when wages rose as fast as productivity did. Increases in productivity, in our ability to make more stuff, only lead to prosperity and affluence if we are making the right stuff, and we are actually distributing that stuff widely.
  • GOP and the Rise of Anti-Knowledge - Mike Lofgren, Consortiumnews: Thanks to these overlapping and mutually reinforcing segments of the right-wing media-entertainment-“educational” complex, it is now possible for the true believer to sail on an ocean of political, historical, and scientific disinformation without ever sighting the dry land of empirical fact. This effect is fortified by the substantial overlap between conservative Republicans and fundamentalist Christians. The latter group begins with the core belief that truth is revealed in a subjective process involving the will to believe (“faith”) rather than discovered by objectively corroberable means.
  • For-profit education: plenty of blame to go around - John Quiggin: The real problem is that no one is willing to admit the obvious lesson, already evident from the US; for-profit education, funded by public subsidies, is a recipe for disaster.
  • What the Steve Jobs Movie Won’t Tell You About Apple’s Success - Lynn Parramore at INET interviews Mariana Mazzucato: The economic crisis that followed from the financial crisis is still being felt strongly across the world. […] It’s not about lack of opportunities. It’s because businesses are choosing to hoard profits or to use them to simply prop up stock options (and hence executive pay). That is bad for innovation and there is nothing inevitable about it. At the same time, governments are being asked to cut back with the austerity craze that continues to plague many nations. So we have a crisis of investment on both the private and public side.
  • Failing conventionally - Chris Dillow: The Overton Window doesn't just exist in politics, but in finance, economics and management too. Some things are inside the window and acceptable - such as mergers, "professional judgment" and orthodox QE - whilst others, such as worker management, simple investment heuristics or helicopter money, are outside it.
  • The disappearing middle class is threatening American mega brands - Hayley Peterson, who is a Business Insider, apparently: The sinister euphemism of the week is "consumer bifurcation". Upper-income consumers are buying more premium treats, while lower-income individuals are purchasing discounted chocolates, [Hershey CEO John Bilbrey] said. Hershey’s has been losing market share, as a result.
  • People's Deepest, Darkest Google Searches Are Being Used Against Them - Adrienne LaFrance in The Atlantic: Consider, for example, a person who googles “need rent money fast” or “can’t pay rent.” Among the search results that Google returns, there may be ads that promise to help provide payday loans—ads designed to circumvent Google’s policies against predatory financial advertising. They’re placed by companies called lead generators, and they work by collecting and distributing personal information about consumers online. So while Google says it bans ads that guarantee foreclosure prevention or promise short-term loans without conveying accurate loan terms, lead generators may direct consumers to a landing page where they’re asked to input sensitive identifiable information. Then, payday lenders buy that information from the lead generators and, in some cases, target those consumers—online, via phone, and by mail—for the very sorts of short-term loans that Google prohibits.
  • The digital revolution in higher education has already happened. No one noticed. - Clay Shirky at Medium (via @tregeagle): Outside a relative handful of selective residential institutions, the principal function of college is to train and credential people for work. An Associate’s or Bachelor’s is no longer one way of getting a good job. It is just about the only way of avoiding low wages or unemployment. The earnings premium for having a college degree has stagnated, but the punishment for not having one continues to grow. The digital revolution is happening because a high school degree is a ticket to not very much, while the traditional form of college no longer works for the people who need a certificate of employability.