Sunday, December 29, 2019

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 29, 2019

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 29, 2019
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

99 GOOD News Stories You Probably DIDN'T Hear About In 2019
[via The Big Picture 12-23-19]

A giant among us has passed

William Greider – in memoriam – (1936 – 2019)
Tony Wikrent, December 28, 2019 [Real Economics]

William Greider, Journalist Who Focused on Economy, Dies at 83
[New York Times, via Naked Capitalism 12-27-19]
'A Stark Loss for American Journalism': Reporter and Author William Greider Dies at Age 83
[The Nation 12-27-19]

Strategic Political Economy

The Loss of Fair Play
Yves Smith, December 27, 2019 [Naked Capitalism 12-16-19]
This site regularly discusses the rise of neoliberalism and its consequences, such as rising inequality and lower labor bargaining rights. But it’s also important to understand that these changes were not organic but were the result of a well-financed campaign to change the values of judges and society at large to be more business-friendly. But the sacrifice of fair dealing as a bedrock business and social principle has had large costs.
We’ve pointed out how lower trust has increased contracting costs: things that use to be done on a handshake or a simple letter agreement are now elaborately papered up. The fact that job candidates will now engage in ghosting, simply stopping to communicate with a recruiter rather than giving a ritually minimalistic sign off, is a testament to how impersonal hiring is now perceived to be, as well as often-abused workers engaging in some power tit for tat when they can. 
But on a higher level, the idea of fair play was about self-regulation of conduct. Most people want to see themselves as morally upright, even if some have to go through awfully complicated rationalizations to believe that. But when most individuals lived in fairly stable social and business communities, they had reason to be concerned that bad conduct might catch up with them.... 
Another aspect of the decline in the importance of fair dealing is the notion of the obligations of power, that individuals in a position of authority have a duty to those in their sway. 
The abandonment of lofty-sounding principles like being fair has other costs. We’ve written about the concept of obliquity, how in complex systems, it’s not possible to chart a simple path though them because it’s impossible to understand it well enough to begin to do so. John Kay, who has made a study of the issue and eventually wrote a book about it, pointed out as an illustration that studies of similarly-sized companies in the same industry showed that ones that adopted nobler objectives did better in financial terms than ones that focused on maximizing shareholder value.
Imagining a World Without Capitalism
Yanis Varoufakis, December 27, 2019 [Project Syndicate, via Naked Capitalism 12-26-19]

Climate and environmental crises

In Asia Pacific the climate crisis is happening now, not in the future
[CNN, via Naked Capitalism 12-26-19]
“Lawyers are going to court to stop climate change. And it might just work”
[The Correspondent, via Naked Capitalism 12-24-19] 
“[C]ourt cases involving climate change were rare until midway through the 2000s. Since then, dozens of cases have been initiated revolving around climate change, with new cases peaking in 2017. In most cases, the targets are governments, but companies, banks and investors are also being summoned to account for the inadequacy of their climate policy. The legal principles invoked by climate cases are essentially universal in (western) legal systems: the polluter pays; it is forbidden to unnecessarily endanger others; high-risk activities require adequate preventive measures. What’s new is that the law is now being used as a potential tool to break through political deadlock and entrenched interests to tackle climate change.” • See Naked Capitalism on Juliana v. United States.
Cattle have stopped breeding, koalas die of thirst: A vet’s hellish diary of climate change 
[Sidney Morning Herald, via Naked Capitalism 12-26-19]

Saturday, December 28, 2019

William Greider – in memoriam – (1936 – 2019)

William H. Greider
(August 6, 1936 – December 25, 2019)

Just a few days after Paul Volcker and Felix Rohatyn finally relieved this planet of their mortal existence, William H. Greider passed on Christmas. There are, I suppose, some good things to be said about Volcker and Rohatyn, but I don't know what they might be.

However, I do know a lot of good things to write about William Greider. Just a partial list of the books he wrote is enough to realize that a giant who walked among us may be no more, but the shadow he cast will linger for a long while.

Secrets of the Temple, How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country
(Simon and Schuster, New York, NY, 1987)

Who Will Tell the People?: The Betrayal of American Democracy
(Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 1992)

One World, Ready or Not: The Manic Logic of Global Capitalism
(Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 1997)

Fortress America: The American Military and the Consequences of Peace
(PublicAffairs, 1998)

The Soul of Capitalism: Opening Paths to a Moral Economy
(Simon & Schuster, New York, NY, 2003)

Come Home, America: The Rise and Fall (And Redeeming Promise) Of Our Country.
(Rodale Books, 2009)

Greider was born in Cincinnati at a time when dominance of that city's economy had shifted from meat packing and the Ohio River steamboat trade to industrial manufacturing. Most notably, the city had emerged as a center of machine tool making: R. K. Le Blond Machine Tool Co.; Lodge and Shipley Machine Tool Co.; G. A. Gray Co.; Cincinnati Shaper Co.; American Tool Works Co.; Cincinnati Planer Co.; Cincinnati Bickford Tool Co. and the company that was then the largest machine tool maker in America: Cincinnati Milling Machine Company, later named Cincinnati Milacron. And like other centers of machine tool production historically -- the Connecticut River valley (called Precision Valley in the first half of the twentieth century), Philadelphia, and Chicago, the ethos of Veblen's producer class ran strong and deep. I have no doubt that this producer class ethos helped shape Greider's life in profound ways, fitting him for the unique and powerful role of a leading critic of de-industrialization and financialization. His study at Princeton University thankfully did not inflict him with trained incapacity.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 22, 2019

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 22, 2019
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

Strategic Political Economy

Canada’s infrastructure was once cheap and effective to build. Now, it’s a titanic transfer from taxpayers to the world’s biggest businesses and investors
[boing boing, via Naked Capitalism 12-16-19]
However, a vital fact that Saxe and virtually everyone else either don’t know or won’t mention is that from 1938 to 1974 Canada and other western countries did in fact get very good infrastructure for very cheap. As documented by journalist Murray Dobbin, during those four decades the Bank of Canada loaned massive amounts of money, virtually interest-free, to all levels of government. This same central-bank function was exercised in the U.S. and the other G7 countries. 
That’s how we got massive projects like the war effort, the Trans-Canada Highway and the St. Lawrence Seaway -- as well as pools, schools, government buildings, roads, subways, etc. – all without significantly increasing government deficits or debts.
Then in 1974 under then-Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau the central bank’s issuance of very-low-interest bonds to fund federal and provincial governments slowed to a trickle. 
That’s because private lenders in Canada and abroad took over that function. The result was a significant slow-down in the building and maintenance of infrastructure. (A Charter of Rights and Freedoms challenge to reverse this went all the way to the Supreme Court; however, in mid-2017 the Supremes declined to hear the case.)
And governments had to pay much higher interest for the money they needed. Canada’s national debt leapt from just over $20 billion in 1971 to more than three-quarters of a trillion today. This is accompanied by very high provincial debts, such as Ontario’s $325 billion (the largest sub-national-level debt in the world). Servicing the debt consumes the biggest single chunk of both provincial and federal budgets.

Why GDP is increasingly problematic as a metric:
[Twitter, via Naked Capitalism 12-16-19]
U.S. economic activity is becoming increasingly concentrated in large cities and by the coasts—and less so in rural counties
6:29 AM · Dec 16, 2019

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

Thoughts on 30 years since the Berlin Wall came down

November 9, 1989, the night the Berlin Wall was breached, I spent the evening with an incredibly interesting woman from Finland. I had met her at a book signing of my impossibly difficult attempt to explain why pollution was a function of design and that the only effective solutions for our over-polluted world would come from the efforts of environmentally responsible designers. She had a job in radio with a voice to match but assured me that she wanted to ask questions for the book review she was writing for a newspaper.

The book signing was in February but we were still an item nine months later. I was hopelessly smitten because not only did she have those physical characteristic that make Nordic women world famous—icy-blue eyes, true ash-blond hair, high cheekbones, and those impossibly-toned legs from a life-time of commuting by bicycle and cross-country skis—but she was also a walking advertisement for Finland's justly admired educational system. She spoke five languages, was astonishingly well-read, and had that remarkable Finnish ability to summarize complex arguments into a few profound and insightful sentences. (The Finns don't like to talk any more than they absolutely have to so coming to the point is a well-practiced cultural skill.)

When I met her, I had just spent almost 8 years researching, writing, and revising my thoughts on elegant technology. I emerged from this extended self-inflicted solitude into the sunlight to be met by someone who had not only read my book but had decided it was a work of historical genius. She offered those opinions in the dulcet tones of a professional radio personality. Her book review occupied two full newspaper pages. And that wouldn't have turned your head?

November found us hanging out in central Florida (long story) so the fall of the Berlin Wall came as a complete surprise (we were distracted). I was so excited I immediately went out to buy a bottle of champagne. On the way to the cash register, I said to myself—events like this are rare, why not buy two bottles?

And so the evening was set—sufficient champagne and interesting live TV. The pictures were mostly of very happy and deliriously drunk young Germans dancing on the wall that had divided their country, while simultaneously proving that hand-held hammers were no match for hardened concrete. And while I worried that the partying kids would hurt themselves, I also concluded that I had never been that happy about anything, ever. I found the sheer joy incredibly infectious.

I had managed to visit DDR (East Germany) for only one day in 1970. The experience was very grim. Just crossing the border at Checkpoint Charlie took an hour and a half—time mostly spent looking at amount of civil engineering that had been employed in order to stop the movement of humans. While I waited, I wondered at least a couple of dozen times whether I really wanted to get inside that wall.

But then I was in. The streets were mostly empty of both traffic and people. There were occasional piles of rubble to remind us that in 1945, Berlin had been one of history's most intense battlefields. It's easy to understand that recovery from such a battle would require serious time and effort...but 25 years? If there were WW II rubble piles in West Berlin, I certainly had not seen them.

And then I saw it. A Trabant. This ugly contraption was supposed to be DDR's "people's car" and it sported such features as a smoky-smelly 2-stroke engine, the build quality of a junior-high shop project, and performance you could measure with an hour-glass. And did I mention UGLY? I was utterly stunned. Less than three weeks earlier, I had spent three hours on an industrial tour of the Porsche works at Stuttgart-Zuffenhausen where they were constructing the world-famous 911s. The distance in industrial sophistication between the 911 and the Trabant could be measured in light-years. I wondered how on earth Germans! could build something so stupid.

Soon, I discovered that the Trabi had been manufactured in Zwickau. This city has a long history in automobile manufacturing beginning with the Horch factory in 1904 followed by Audi in 1909. Digging deeper, I discovered why the ugliness of Trabant was so personally disgusting. It's a long story but I'll try to make it short and sweet.

When I was only four years old, my father moved the family to a small town in Southwest Minnesota. It was largely populated by a tiny Protestant sect called Mennonites. These people had settled the area in the late 1870s and although they had emigrated from Russia, they were German speakers. They had gone to Russia at the invitation of Catherine the Great in the 1760s who needed expert farmers. She had promised them that they could keep their language, schools, and religious practices which included their pacifism. In 1874, the new Czar, Alexander II, reneged on those promises and started drafting Mennonite young men, closing their German-speaking schools, and confiscating their German Bibles. The last outrage included the invasion of German homes looking for those now-outlawed Bibles and arresting the heads of the household if any were found. Time to get out of Dodge. Most fled to North America and settled in places such as Kansas, Minnesota, the Dakotas and Saskatchewan. They brought with them their excellent farming practices, their beliefs, and hard Red Wheat.

Even though my father was a Swedish-Lutheran pastor, he joined the local Ministerial Association and was almost immediately elected its leader. He got on famously with the Mennonites and soon enrolled us children in their local Christian Day School. I attended K-6. We were taught in English but roughly 1/4 of my classmates spoke German at home and many of the rest used some German grammar in their English. My mother, who spoke Swedish at home until she was ten, found their Germanized English quite amusing. Even so, my parents kept sending us to the Mennonite school because they were such strict pacifists—no pledge of allegiance, no war-like hymns like Onward Christian Soldiers, no playground war games, etc. My grandfathers were quite different men but both had refused to cooperate with the draft when USA had entered WW I. Turns out, the Swedes have a strong anti-war tradition too. These descendants of Vikings stopped going to war in 1814 and have not gone since.

As I grew older, I learned a great deal about the traditions of the German speakers in a preserved form. The Mennonites I got to know were not opposed to modern technology as long as it was useful—they had telephones, and tractors, and cars. My father struck up a long-lasting friendship with a Mennonite evangelist who had an airplane—a Cessna 195. One neighbor had a ham radio he built himself that he used to communicate with a missionary brother in Brazil. The preserved-in-amber forms of Mennonite / German culture came in three basic flavors—their love of music, their memory of when their religious practices had led to real physical harm, and their incredible work habits.

Sunday, December 15, 2019

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 15, 2019

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 15, 2019
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

Strategic Political Economy

The Economy of Evil 
[Historicly, via Naked Capitalism 12-11-19]
Benito Mussolini became Prime Minister in October 1922. Nazis rose to power in 1933 in Germany. Mussolini convened a meeting of his cabinet and immediately decided to privatize all the public enterprises. On December 3, 1922, they passed a law where they promised to reduce the size and function of the government, reform tax laws and also reduce spending. This was followed by mass privatization. He privatized the post office, railroads, telephone companies, and even the state life insurance companies. Afterward, the two firms that had lobbied the hardest: Assicurazioni Generali (AG) and Adriatica di Sicurtà (AS), became a de-facto oligopoly. They became for-profit enterprises. The premiums increased, and poor people had their coverage removed. 
In January 1923, Mussolini eliminated rent-control laws. His reasoning ought to be familiar since that is the same reasoning used in many contemporary editorials against rent control laws. He claimed rent control laws prevent landlords from building new housing. When tenants protested, he eliminated tenants' unions. As a result, rent prices increased wildly in Rome, and many families became homeless. Some went to live in caves. Once more, these policies allowed landlords to increase their profit and holdings while they severely hurt the poor. 
To remove "government waste," Mussolini removed the federal government from remote areas in Italy. This meant that rural farmers, peasants, and workers no longer had the protection of the federal government against abuse from agribusiness. Instead, they were entirely under the mercy of big businesses.

Hitler's economic policy was Mussolini's policy on steroids....  In 1934, Nazis outlined their plan to revitalize the German economy. It involved reprivatization of significant industries: railways, public works project, construction, steel, and banking. On top of that, Hitler guaranteed profits for the private sector, and so, many American industrialists and bankers gleefully flocked to Germany to invest.  
The Nazis had a thorough plan for deregulation. The Nazi's economist, stated," The first thing German business needs is peace and quiet. It must have a feeling of absolute legal security and must know that work and its return are guaranteed. The interferences In a business which occurred at first, perhaps as a result of too much zeal, have become intolerable."
Emmanuel Macron Wants to End France’s Welfare State
[Jacobin, via Naked Capitalism 12-9-19]
....other major mobilizations have failed to bring success, most significantly past battles against pension reforms in 2003 and 2010. But the protracted resistance to neoliberalism really has had a lasting impact — explaining why France’s welfare state has proven much more resilient than those of nearly all other Western countries. To the despair of its domestic elite and of high-ranking bureaucrats in the European Union and OECD, France tops the table for government spending as a share of GDP; at nearly 55 percent, its spending level ranks ahead of all Scandinavian countries and stands about 10 percent higher than Germany and the OECD average.

Sunday, December 8, 2019

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 8, 2019

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 8, 2019
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

Strategic Political Economy

Reforming Rigged Capitalism
Barry Ritholtz, December 4, 2019 [The Big Picture]
Notable here is the original source: The Financial Times of London, for a century and a half the voice of the financiers of the City of London. The Financial Times is simply inaccessible behind a paywall, but Ritholtz provides a summary of highlights:
• US and UK have succumbed to demagogy. These long-stable democracies are also the most unequal of the western high-income countries. This is no coincidence;
• Rentier capitalism, weakened competition, feeble productivity growth, high inequality and, not coincidentally, an increasingly degraded democracy is is an unstable.
• US markets have become less competitive: concentration is high, leaders are entrenched and profit rates are excessive.
• Unit cost of financial intermediation has not fallen in the US over 140 years, despite technological advances
• The narrow focus on maximizing shareholder value has exacerbated the bad side-effects;
• Money in politics has damaged the idea of one person one vote. Money buys politicians, turns nations into plutocracies, not democracies. Our democracies need refurbishing.
• Finally, In­equality is corrosive.

How money laundering is poisoning American democracy
[Financial Times, via The Big Picture 12-1-19]
 In one of Mr Trump’s towers in Florida, more than 80 per cent of its units are owned by shell companies. The US has 10 times more shell companies than the next 41 jurisdictions combined, according to the World Bank.
NRA, Russia and Trump: How 'dark money' is poisoning American democracy
[CNBC 2-15-18]
One such report found that since Trump secured the Republican nomination in 2016, the fraction of anonymous purchases of his properties through shell companies has "skyrocketed" from 4 to 70 percent.
Here’s what happened when a charity gave $1,000 each to poor households in Kenya
[WeForum, via Naked Capitalism 12-5-19]
The charity gave a total of $10 million to 328 villages. Each of 10,500 households that qualified – by having a thatched-roof home – received $1,000, paid in three transfers.

The total paid out equaled around 75% of mean annual household expenditure in the region.... Economists from Berkeley, Princeton, and the University of California, San Diego analyzed a total of 653 villages. They carried out monthly surveys over 2.5 years, looking at 61 local markets. And they found many people benefitted from the cash – not only those who received it, but people in nearby villages, too.

In fact, every $1 of cash delivered generated $2.60 in additional spending or income in the area, the researchers say.
Freedom Is Meaningless Under Insurmountable Debt
[Atlantic, via Naked Capitalism 12-1-19]
Facing eviction, she took out a loan. She signed over the title to her family’s 2004 Ford F-150 as collateral and agreed to an annual interest rate of 300 percent... Her payment history shows her trying to keep up. Over 13 months, she gave more than a quarter of her take-home pay to the lender—$5,617—on a loan of $1,971. But the lender applied less than $2 of that to the loan principal; the rest vaporized in fees and interest.... 
As the historian Eric Foner and others have described, the Reconstruction Congress adopted a core view of the new Republican Party: that central to freedom is the right to enjoy the fruits of one’s own labor....

In 1867, Congress expressly recognized that it was possible to agree to work and still be enslaved. With its Anti-Peonage Act, Congress outlawed debt peonage—contracts that force someone to labor in order to pay off a debt, whether it is “voluntary” or not.

This and other laws reveal how the Reconstruction Congress saw the labor part of freedom as “not just the right to participate in the market, but the right to participate in a way that frees you from undue coercion,” says Rebecca Zietlow, a founder of the Thirteenth Amendment Project, a group of scholars exploring the history and “untapped potential” of the amendment.... 
As the Thirteenth Amendment scholar Lea VanderVelde writes: "What is the difference between owning a man and owning his services,” if his services—his labor—are all he has? How different is it, truly, to hold and force a woman to work until she pays off her debt, from garnishing the wages of a woman who cannot keep up with a loan at 300 percent interest? 
To be sure, this modern form of debt peonage doesn’t restrain one’s body—one’s physical freedom to move from place to place. But in the eyes of Howe and his fellow Republicans, its power is over something fundamental to liberty: the right to one’s future income.
The Data Show That Socialism Works
[Current Affairs]
....inspired by Nathanial Lewis’s “scale of socialism,” I used data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), the World Inequality Database, and Freedom House to build a “Democratic Socialism Score” for a variety of countries. Due to the limits of their databases, I could only score 36 countries. I would love to apply this score to all countries, but the data limits can’t be avoided.

The score derives from four components, with each made up of several subcomponents. The “State Ownership Score” combines data on the market value of State-Owned Enterprises relative to the overall economy, the share of government financial assets as a percentage of GDP, and the share of total public wealth as a share of total overall wealth. The “Public Goods and Welfare Score” combines government expenditures on welfare transfers, education, housing, etc. as a share of GDP. The “Democracy Score” simply comes from Freedom House’s “Freedom Ratings.” And the “Union Score” combines the percent of the workforce who are members of unions and the percent who are covered by collectively bargained contracts. To appropriately average these scores into a single overall score, I converted them into “standardized t-scores.”

The Carnage of Establishment Neoliberal Economics

Our workforce is dying faster than any other wealthy country, study shows 
[USA Today, via Naked Capitalism 12-3-19] study by researchers at Virginia Commonwealth University [shows] that mortality rates for U.S. adults ages 25-64 continue to increase, driving down the general population’s life expectancy for at least three consecutive years. 
The report, “Life Expectancy and Mortality Rates in the United States, 1959-2017,’’ was published Tuesday in the Journal of the American Medical Association. The study paints a bleak picture of a workforce plagued by drug overdoses, suicides and organ-system diseases while grappling with economic stresses....
  • Between 1999 and 2017, midlife mortality from drug overdoses spiked by 386.5%.
  • In that same age group and time period, deaths from hypertensive diseases increased by 78.9%, and those linked to obesity by 114%.
  • Suicides rose by 38% and climbed 55.9% among those ages 55-64.
Median US Homebuyers Age in 1981 was 31. Today it is 47.
[Deutsche Bank Securities, via The Big Picture 12-5-19]

“The WTO’s trade dispute appeal system could end on Dec. 10. Here’s what you need to know.” [Washington Post, via Naked Capitalism 12-3-19] 
“On Dec. 10, the World Trade Organization appeals tribunal, the Appellate Body, won’t have enough members left to rule on trade disputes between countries. That’s a problem, given ongoing trade wars between the United States, China, and Europe, and some 60 cases pending before the WTO. Without a functioning Appellate Body, countries can block progress on disputes between the organization’s 164 members simply by filing an appeal. How did we get to this point? The U.S. government has blocked all new appointments to the Appellate Body, to protest what it claims to be “persistent overreaching” by Appellate Body members in their rulings.
It's maddening that Trump is doing this and outflanking Democratic Party leaders who are unwilling or unable to admit that free trade as been a disaster for average Americans. There were a number of people in 2016 who warned that on economic issues such as trade, Trump would devastate Clinton was running to the left of her on economic issues. Remember he promised to preserve intact Social Security and Medicare? 

Less than a year after abandoning HQ2 in New York City, Amazon says it’s opening a new 1,500-employee office in NYC 
[Business Insider, via Naked Capitalism 12-4-19]

[The Hill, via Naked Capitalism 12-4-19]

Economics in the real world

[USA Today, via Naked Capitalism 12-4-19]

Climate and environmental crises

“Poor Potato Crops Could Lead to a North American French Fry Shortage” 
[Smithsonian, via Naked Capitalism 12-4-19]
“The trouble started in October, when cold and wet conditions left potato growing regions covered in frost. Farmers in Alberta and Ohio were able to salvage and store some of their crops, but farmers in other areas, like Manitoba, North Dakota and Minnesota, had no choice but to give up on their beleaguered potatoes. Back in November, the United States Department of Agriculture predicted that production outputs from the country’s top nine potato producing states will fall 6.1 percent in 2019. Crops were down three percent in the autumn season alone, which, according to the United Potato Growers of Canada, ‘is one of the lowest crops on record.'”
[New York Times, via The Big Picture 12-5-19]
...climate change is encroaching on their treehouse paradise. Hurricane Irma in 2017 blew out their screens and pushed water through the windows. Each high tide brings the saltwater a little bit closer, killing the palm trees under the deck and popping the wooden slats off the boardwalk. The couple used to fly down from Long Island in a Cessna, until one day the runway at the island’s airport was underwater. 
“What’s government for? They’re supposed to protect your property,” Mr. Silverman said from behind the wheel of his shallow skiff boat on a recent afternoon.
“The Kaiser Family Foundation/Washington Post Climate Change Survey” 
[Kaiser Family Foundation, via Naked Capitalism 12-5-19] 
“The poll finds that eight in ten U.S. adults believe that human activity is causing changes to the world’s climate, and two-thirds think the U.S. government is doing too little to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Yet while many see climate change as an urgent issue, most are not discussing it often with their family and friends, and most are not willing to make personal sacrifices such as paying higher taxes at the gas pump or on their electric bills.”

[The Conversation, via Naked Capitalism 12-5-19]

Coal Power Becoming ‘Uninsurable’ As Firms Refuse Cover 
[Guardian, via Naked Capitalism 12-3-19]

“Nitrogen crisis from jam-packed livestock operations has ‘paralyzed’ Dutch economy” 
[Science, via Naked Capitalism 12-6-19] 
“Last week, Dutch farmers across the country parked their tractors along highways in the third such protest since October, when they jammed traffic while driving en masse to The Hague, the nation’s center of government. They are protesting a Dutch high court decision that in May suspended permits for construction projects that pollute the atmosphere with nitrogen compounds and harm nature reserves. The freeze has stalled the expansion of dairy, pig, and poultry farms—major sources of nitrogen in the form of ammonia from animal waste. Also blocked are plans for new homes, roads, and airport runways, because construction machinery emits nitrogen oxides. All told, the shutdown puts some €14 billion worth of projects in jeopardy, according to ABN AMRO Bank. ‘It has really paralyzed the country,’ says Jeroen Candel, a political scientist at Wageningen University and Research.'”
[Nature, via Naked Capitalism 12-6-19]

Creating new economic potential - science and technology

Electrification of vehicles triggering big changes in auto industry
[Wall Street Journal, via Naked Capitalism 12-6-19]
“The electrification of vehicles is triggering bigger changes in automotive supply chains. General Motors Co. and South Korea’s LG Chem plan to jointly build a $2.3 billion battery-cell factory in Ohio… the latest example of how auto makers are plowing big money into technology that is transforming the sector.... “Consultancy AlixPartners LP says auto makers are gearing up to spend $225 billion over the next few years to develop new electric vehicles and are partnering with and investing in battery makers to help provide the power.”

Sunday, December 1, 2019

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 1, 2019

Week-end Wrap – Political Economy – December 1, 2019
by Tony Wikrent
Economics Action Group, North Carolina Democratic Party Progressive Caucus

Strategic Political Economy

The Failure of Liberal Politics: Canadian interview of political philosopher Michael Sandel
"The rise of right wing populism represents the failure of liberal and progressive politics," says Harvard political philosopher Michael Sandel. He joins The Agenda to diagnose the failure of liberal politics, the decline of civic life, and what liberals need to know in the age of anger and populism.
From the transcript:
SANDEL: Two decades ago when I wrote the book that you just generously quoted from, I got a lot of resistance from my liberal and progressive friends who thought I was worrying unnecessarily, that liberalism was more or less intact, and that the embrace by liberalism of the global economy and even market mechanisms would be a way to avoid controversy in politics, a way of avoiding the contentiousness that arises when we engage in morally robust questions in public life. i thought that was a mistake. I thought that was hollowing out public discourse, creating a kind of vacuum that was dangerous. And so we see. 
INTERVIEWER: Somebody filled the vacuum. 
SANDEL: Yes. And not only in the U.S., but with the rise of right wing kind of ultra nationalist populism in many European countries, I think we see this vacuum being filled. People sensed that after three to four decades of a kind of base that markets would decide tough public questions for us, democratic citizens are impatient with too empty a public discourse. They want politics to be about big things and also about values, about moral questions, about justice and inequality and what it means to be a citizen. And when liberal and progressive voices fail to offer that kind of politics, when they became largely technocratic in their approach, that vacuum was filled by narrow, intolerant voices and the kind of strident nationalism we see today.