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Neoliberalism and Climate Change

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 27/11/2019 - 1:02am in

By Juliet Schor (guest post)

This is the text of a speech that Juliet Schor, professor of sociology at Boston College, gave at the 45th anniversary celebration for Dollars & Sense, which maintains Triple Crisis blog, on November 14 at the Nonprofit Center in Boston, Mass. Schor was a D&S collective member in its early years.  This is the first in a series of posts on neoliberalism that we’ll be posting at Triple Crisis. 

We are in the midst of a terrifying climate emergency. Whether it’s the record-challenging cold of this week, devastating wildfires, Category 5 hurricanes, flooding on Morrissey Boulevard in Dorchester, Mass., when it’s not raining, the permanent disappearance of glaciers, intensifying drought and climate migration, or the relentless upward march of average temperatures, signs of climate disruption are all around us. This is partly due to the power of neoliberal economics.  Naomi Klein has made an interesting observation about the relation between the two, which is that it was bad luck that neoliberalism surged just as we figured out the need to do something about greenhouse gas emissions. I’m not convinced that the fossil fuel industry wouldn’t have done just what it did and been as successful even if we were still, in the famous words of Richard Nixon, “all Keynesians now” but that’s something we’ll never know. In any case, evidence of the ability of a now discredited economic approach (neoliberalism) to hang on long past its sell-by date is all around us.

One sign is last year’s Nobel Prize—starting with the exclusion from the prize of Martin Weitzman, whose work on fat tails (i.e., catastrophic climate impacts) was a truly pioneering contribution in a subfield that has lagged far behind on incorporating theoretical innovation from elsewhere in the discipline. I should add that this approach formed the basis of Frank Ackerman’s last, excellent book, Worst Case Economics: Extreme Events in Climate and Finance (Anthem Press, 2017). The omission of Weitzman contrasts with the awarding of the prize to William Nordhaus. Nordhaus’ work has been central in stalling effective climate progress. His position was epitomized by his Nobel lecture. One of his slides labeled 4° Celsius of warming as “optimal,” rather than the truly devastating increase scientists have determined it will be. The levels of ecosystem and human disruption that will prevail with a  4° increase are massive, and whether humans would even be able to “adapt” to that level of increase is questionable. Furthermore, the likelihood of tipping points that lead the climate system to spiral out of control are much greater with an increase of 4°. Only a truly deranged economic paradigm could label such a pathway as “optimal.”

What accounts for such a result? The ostensible rationale for go-slow climate policy is that income today is worth more than income in the future. But aside from the patent immorality of that view, it doesn’t even make sense on its own terms. That’s because growth today is mainly yielding increases in the incomes and wealth of the already wealthy. While the standard models such as Nordhaus’s Dynamic Integrated Climate-Economy (DICE) model, don’t incorporate this distortion of the growth process, it is now well-documented that business-as-usual growth is yielding increased concentration of wealth at the very top. So the neoliberal approach to the climate crisis essentially says that we should destroy the planet to further enrich a tiny sliver of humanity that already has an obscene amount of wealth.

Years ago a group of French graduate students in economics started a movement called “post-autistic” economics. They were rightly criticized for their use of the term autistic, and the contributions of Greta Thunberg show how wrong they were about neuro-atypical people—and their ability to see what’s really going on. They changed the name of their journal from Post-Autistic Economics Review to Real-World Economics Review. In that they also faltered, failing to acknowledge that Dollars & Sense already had that franchise. Perhaps they should have called their movement “post-sociopathic” or “post-ecopathic” economics.

So what would an alternative approach, embodied so well in 45 years of analysis from D&S, suggest as a response to the climate crisis?

First, carbon taxes in the range that have been suggested ($40–$50 a ton) are inadequate. It’s too late for the market-based, go-slow approach. Indeed, roughly a decade ago Frank Ackerman and his co-author Elizabeth A. Stanton did estimates of how high a carbon tax might need to be under various assumptions, including lower discount rates than mainstream economists assumed at the time, and Weitzman-like analysis aimed at avoiding catastrophe. These assumptions all yielded far higher estimates than the “politically feasible” carbon tax range, and even went as high as $1,500 a ton under the most stringent assumptions. It’s notable that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is now also coming up with top-end estimates broadly in that range. A key thing about a tax in that vicinity is that it is so disruptive of the market that it has to be accompanied by a robust and comprehensive role for the state. And that of course is the point of the galvanizing, if still not fully elaborated, Green New Deal. Furthermore, the current Green New Deal, unlike those that have been proposed by progressive economists for decades now, is notable in putting equity and justice at its core. Although there is plenty of debate about the wisdom of this approach in the climate community (with a fair amount of skepticism coming from privileged participants), there’s little doubt that this Green New Deal has mobilized people in an unprecedented way.

This brings me to a related point. In order to fully confront climate change, we need to address other structures of the economy than just the price of carbon. In my own research I’ve worked on two key drivers of carbon emissions, both of which are very much in the spirit of D&S’s approach to economics. The first is hours of work. In a series of papers at both the national and subnational scale, my colleagues and I find that average hours of work are strongly correlated with emissions. Countries with long hours are high emission countries, holding other factors constant. The same is true for states. And short hour countries have low emissions. We find that this is true for two reasons. First, longer hours result in more output, which has associated emissions. But even controlling for this effect, higher hours are still associated with more emissions. We suspect this is an affect at the household level—more work correlates with more commuting, and more carbon-intensive lifestyles.

A second area of work is domestic income and wealth concentration. While most of the research on climate and inequality focuses on North-South inequities, or disproportionate impact on vulnerable populations wherever they live, my colleagues and I have been analyzing another dimension of inequality. We look at how the concentration of income and wealth at the top of the distribution (the top 10%, 5% and 1%) is associated with higher emissions. We believe this is due to two factors—the very high carbon footprints of people at the top and a political economy effect, in which the wealthy have outsized political impact and are able to forestall effective climate responses.

I want to end with a few reflections about my experience with D&S. I had the great privilege to work there (not for pay, but for many hours per week) back in 1976. I was just 20 years old, had left my first graduate program because it didn’t offer a critical perspective, and I was waiting to matriculate at UMass. Arthur, Frank, and others were extremely welcoming as I showed up on their doorstep with nothing more than eagerness and eight months to spare before the fall semester began. For me, it was the beginning of a lifetime of popular writing.

In those days, articles were fully collectively written, which included wrangling over every word. It was a great learning experience, both about economics, but also about collective process, political commitment, and real world politics. This was a time when racial tensions were high and the fight to desegregate Boston was raging. The collective volunteered to help protect a black family who had moved onto a “white” block in Dorchester and was being threatened and attacked by white vigilantes. I remember sitting on that family’s porch, baseball bat in hand, with others from the group. I’m not sure what I could or would have done with that bat had an attack come, but it was a powerful experience. And as much as I learned about economics in those eight months, I suspect that I learned even more about solidarity and political commitment. Congratulations to D&S on a brilliant nearly half century.

Juliet Schor is a former D&S collective member, a professor of sociology at Boston College, and author of numerous books, including The Overworked American (1991), The Overspent American (1997), and True Wealth (2011).

Dollars & Sense, which maintains Triple Crisis blog, is celebrating its 45th anniversary.  Please consider making a donation to support our work. 

Triple Crisis welcomes your comments. Please share your thoughts below.

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Wages of debt

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 27/11/2019 - 12:16am in

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from David Ruccio Well that didn’t go so well. . . Still, Elon Musk’s new Cybertruck would appear to be the perfect design for America’s contemporary dystopia. Its bullet-proof stainless steel alloy panels and transparent metal glass are tailor-made to keep its elite occupants safely guarded from attack. And even though the windows obviously need […]

Press release: PEF to host workshop analysing party manifestos and costings

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/11/2019 - 10:31pm in

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The Progressive Economy Forum hosts a workshop comparing the manifestos and costings of
the major parties on Wednesday 27th November at 1pm at Hodge
Jones and Allen, London, NW1 7NU.

The event will
be introduced by Patrick Allen (Chair of PEF). On the panel will be:

This will be
followed by a Q&A session with economists, policymakers and journalists.

While there have
been immediate responses from the media on the manifestos, this workshop will
offer measured economic analysis, with experts on relevant policy areas sharing
their assessments of the parties’ pledges and costings. By providing detailed,
analysis of policies and their costings, the workshop aims to help improve
public debate on economic policy for the forthcoming election.

Event
details:                                       Contact details:

1PM –
2.30PM                                       Adam
Peggs

Hodge Jones and
Allen                         apeggs@progressiveeconomyforum.com

London                                                  07479973727

NW1 2NB

Notes:

The Progressive Economy Forum was founded in May 2018 and brings together a Council of eminent economists and academics to develop a new macroeconomic programme for the UK.

The forum seeks too:

  1. Advance macroeconomic policies that address the modern challenges of environmental breakdown, economic insecurity, social and economic inequalities, and technological change.
  2. Encourage the implementation of these policies by working with progressive policymakers and improving public understanding of economics.

To these ends, we publish research and policy proposals, run a wide variety of events, and manage a blog
featuring authoritative analysis from progressive economists and academics.

The Forum was founded by Patrick Allen who is
Chair of the Council. The Forum is not aligned
to any political party.

The post Press release: PEF to host workshop analysing party manifestos and costings appeared first on The Progressive Economy Forum.

Open thread Nov. 26, 2019

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/11/2019 - 9:36pm in

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EFA and Future Wise Urge Seriousness From Government On Health Data Security

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/11/2019 - 3:34pm in

Digital rights groups Electronic Frontiers Australia and Future Wise today expressed their disappointment in the management of privacy and security of the My Health Record system, as highlighted by the Australian National Audit Office (ANAO)’s report released on Monday 25 November 2019. They called on the Australian government to engage seriously with the complex issues of data privacy and security.

The ANAO report, Implementation of the My Health Record System, validates the concerns that civil society shared during the My Health Record opt-out saga. The government had to be forced, by widespread outcry, to tighten the security of the system, yet the ANAO’s report shows that the Australian Digital Health Agency (ADHA) has been unable to take the security of Australians’ health data seriously.

In 2018, the private health service provider sector reported the most notifiable data breaches of any industry sector and yet ANAO found that ADHA’s management of shared cyber security risks “was not appropriate”. It is astounding that this should be the case after over seven years of production use of the My Health Record system. It raises serious questions about ADHA’s commitment to cyber security of the My Health Record system.

The report also found that only 8.2 per cent of requests by third parties to get "emergency access" to patients' records met guidelines. ADHA itself assessed that use of this function had a ‘very high’ inherent privacy risk, and yet ADHA has been unable to demonstrate that Australians’ sensitive health data is being accessed appropriately.

This is particularly alarming as monthly use of this so-called emergency access has increased from 80 instances per month in July 2018 to 205 instances in March 2019. More alarming still is that some responses received from specific healthcare provider organisations about their use of emergency access indicated a “potential contravention of the [My Health Records] Act”, and yet ADHA did not notify the Information Commissioner about any of these instances. 

“It is deeply concerning that the ADHA has not yet undertaken all of the recommended steps to improve security. In some cases, there is no risk assessment or mitigation strategies to protect information assessed as high and very high risk,” said Dr Trent Yarwood, a medical specialist and health spokesperson for Future Wise.

“Improper access by an authorised user like a healthcare worker snooping on record of their friend, or ex-partner, or even a celebrity is a much more likely to occur than an external hack. So when ADHA say the system has never been hacked, it does not mean people’s private information hasn’t been breached, because clearly it is happening”  Dr Yarwood continued. 

“We call on the government to move beyond lazy, simplistic, and divisive rhetoric about cyber security and to engage seriously with the work required,” said EFA Chair Lyndsey Jackson. “These are complex issues that require serious people willing to engage with the complexity, and to do the hard work required to keep our data private and secure. Australians deserve nothing less.”

Media Contact

Trent Yarwood - Futurewise

info@futurewise.org.au

0403 819 234

Lyndsey Jackson - EFA

media@efa.org.au

About EFA

Electronic Frontiers Australia is Australia’s leading independent, not-for-profit organisation promoting and protecting digital rights since 1994.

About Future Wise

Future Wise is an independent organisation which focuses on technology, health and education and their impacts on modern society. More information is available on their website: https://futurewise.org.au 

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China going wrong

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/11/2019 - 3:02pm in

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Despite the opacity of Chinese politics, it is clear that things are going badly wrong there. In just the last week, we’ve seen

  • The rejection of the officially backed candidates in Hong Kong’s local election
  • Leaks exposing the massive repression of the Uighur population
  • The defection of an alleged Chinese spy, with allegations of interference in Australia’s domestic politics
  • Clear evidence that the energy transformation towards renewables has been abandoned or downplayed in favor of the revival of suspended coal projects

We can add to that longer term problems such as the failure to resolve the trade war with the US, and the slow-motion trainwreck of the Belt and Road Initiative.

At the core of much of this is the central government’s incapacity to control what goes in the provinces. I wrote about this a while ago in relation to coal, and it’s clearly evident both in the failure to control events in Hong Kong and in the resort to state terror in Xinjiang. It’s also true in relation to the Belt and Road, which has turned from a geopolitical grand strategy to a slush fund for provincial politicians and SOEs seeking easy money in corrupt overseas investment deals.

This is unlikely to work well for China, and failure in China bodes ill for the rest of us. Most obviously, if China’s coal projects follow their current trajectory, there is no chance of stabilizing the global climate.

But more generally, it seems hard to see how the current integrated global economy, with China playing a central role, can be sustained. Trump’s trade war was largely motivated by a pre-modern mercantilist analysis, but now that has started, it seems unlikely to stop, even if Trump loses in 2020.

I’ve been sceptical both of the idea that Chinese activity in the South China Sea is a major problem and of attacks on Chinese influence in Australia. While I still think these claims are overblown, it is hard to see the current Chinese state as anything other than a bad actor, one of many we have to confront today.

WEA conference: Going Digital

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/11/2019 - 8:20am in

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from Malgorzata Dereniowska   Going Digital: What is the Future of Business and Labour?   Welcome to the second week of the Conference which discusses recent contributions to the understanding of the digital economy and its consequences for business trends and labour challenges. Read the latest comments on the DISCUSSION FORUM which is open until December 9th. […]

Going Digital: What is the Future of Business and Labour?

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/11/2019 - 5:46am in

wea-logo-anniversary-7Welcome to the second week of the Conference!

The objective of this conference is to discuss recent contributions to the understanding of digital econom y and its cons equences for bus ines s trends and labour challenges .

Read the latest comments!

DISCUSSION FORUM

The Discussion Forum is open until December 9th.

All papers are available HERE. You can participate in the Discussion Forum by commenting on specific papers, or contributing to a general discussion on the Complexities in Economics. In the spirit of debate, authors are asked to respond to the comments on their papers as well as on related general remarks.
Comments are moderated prior to posting to ensure no libellous or hateful language.

CONFERENCE PROGRAM

Keynote Papers

1. Grazia Ietto-Gillies, “Digitalization and the transnational corporations. Rethinking economics” 2. Peter Söderbaum, “Ecological Economics in relation to a digital world”

Selected Contributions

  1. Bin Li, “How Could The Cognitive Revolution Happen To Economics? An Introduction to the Algorithm Framework Theory”
  2. Marc Jacquinet, “Artificial intelligence, big data, platform capitalism and public policy: An evolutionary perspective”
  3. Guilherme Nunes Pires, “Gig economy, austerity and “uberization” of labor in Brazil (2014 – 2019)”
  4. Alessandro Zoino, “Predicting Stock Returns: Random Walk or Herding Behaviour?”

REGISTRATION FOR THE CONFERENCE

There is no fee for conference registration.
Registration is not required for participation in the conference – you can read and comment on the papers without it – but your registration will allow us to send you emails to keep you posted on announcements and progress of the conference.

If, additionally, you would like to receive a conference participation e-certificate, you can pay $10 and complete your official registration here.

We look forward to having you participate in the Discussion Forum.

Maria Alejandra Madi, Conference Leader and a Chair of the WEA Conferences Program

Malgorzata Dereniowska, Co-Leader and a member of the WEA Conferences Planning and Organization Committee

Video Summary of BBC Horizon Programme ‘The Hunt for Gravity Control’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/11/2019 - 5:03am in

And now for something a little different. Trev, one of the great commenters on this blog, asked me a little while ago about anti-gravity in a comment on a piece I’d put up about UFOs. Way back in 2016 the BBC’s Horizon science programme had an edition, ‘The Hunt for Gravity Control’, which dealt with the hunt by British, American and Russian scientists to create an anti-gravity device. This began in Britain with the aerospace scientist Ron Evans at BAE, who started Project Greenglow. At the same time the Americans had a similar project, NASA’s Advanced Propulsion physics Programme, under the direction of Marc Millis. This aimed to discover alternative methods of space propulsion to rockets. A Russian scientist, Eugene Podkletnov, believed he had also discovered a method of creating anti-gravity through the use of superconductors and a spinning disc. However, this has not been replicated, and one of the scientists interviewed on the programme dismisses Podkletnov’s claims as ‘crap’. A Black physicist, who I don’t think is named in the clip, explains why scientists believe anti-gravity is impossible: it would need an object with negative mass, which instead of creating a kind of hole in spacetime would produce a type of mound around it instead.

There has, however, been a breakthrough of sorts. At the end, Dr. Evans is shown a device which uses quantum physics to detect bodies as small as that of a human through the tiny gravitational attraction they cause, at a distance of a meter. This gives Evans hope that one day, humans may be able to master gravity.

The full documentary’s about 50 minutes or so long. It was repeated a few months ago on BBC 4, and I think it might be available on BBC iplayer. The narrator’s Peter Capaldi, who was the last Dr. Who before Jodie Whitaker took over.

Where is the U.S. growing? : Population growth in metropolitan statistical areas

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 26/11/2019 - 1:00am in

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View on GeoFRED®

If you’ve looked at FRED data, you’ve probably seen the term MSA, which is “metropolitan statistical area,” which the Census defines as “a core area containing a substantial population nucleus, together with adjacent communities having a high degree of economic and social integration with that core.” It’s that high degree of economic integration that can make MSAs more comprehensive and relevant than just the specific governmental boundaries of cities and counties. In fact, MSAs often span several counties and sometimes straddle state borders. Think of it as a commuting basin… Or create your own metaphor!

The GeoFRED map here shows population growth for MSAs: Red is at the strong end of the growth spectrum and dark blue is at the weak end. What’s behind these changes in population? The main drivers are moves between MSAs, moves from rural areas into MSAs, and immigration from abroad. In some years, the boundaries of some MSAs are adjusted and can lead to substantial increases. If you follow the “View on GeoFRED” link below the map, you can select different years and see migration patterns over time, which are affected by local economic conditions. Some MSAs, like New York–Northern New Jersey–Long Island, change pretty drastically from year to year. Other MSAs are steadier: For example, growth in St. Louis is consistently slow and growth in Las Vegas–Paradise is consistently fast.

How this map was created: On FRED, search for the population of any MSA you can think of: Choose one of the larger U.S. cities, and the MSA data should appear near the top of the results. Then click on the link and navigate below the graph to the Related Resources section. Click the link to the GeoFRED map. You may need to change the units to “Percent change from year ago” and zoom out to see more of the nation. You’ll need to zoom out even further to go beyond the continental U.S. (Sorry, Alaska and Hawaii.)

Suggested by Christian Zimmermann.

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