/Tag: economics

It’s the economy, stupid.

Americans have been taught — indoctrinated, perhaps — to think of the economy as capitalism. Quite literally: if capital returns are high […] then Americans suppose the economy is booming. But capital returns — profits, dividends, stock markets, GDP (or their opposites, deficits) — are not the economy at all. They are just the success of capitalists, at increasing their capital. Hence, the average American — who isn’t a capitalist, since the true capitalists, Bezos, Brin, Buffett, are tiny in number — is cheering on capitalists increasing their capital, but not his own income, savings, living standards, health, longevity, or happiness. […]

Americans think the economy is a set of abstractions about capitalism — more exactly, capitalists increasing their capital. But they have been systematically warned against thinking of the economy as them: the simple and daily realities of their very own lives — whether or not they can afford food, shelter, medicine, education, save, retire, create, dream, build, grow. Comrades — the victory of capitalism is the victory of us all!

umair haque on economies.

2018-11-26T08:22:27+11:0020th March, 2019|Tags: economics, politics, usa|

Unchallenging action.

I said to [Bill Clinton], “Mr. President, this seems as clear a case to me as any could be of a place where government is a legitimate actor. I’m not sure why you need to work with the soft drink companies to make smaller cans. You have products that have no redeeming nutritional value for children. […] You have children who cannot vote and cannot easily organize to thwart the power of these products, which have addictive qualities. This seems as clear a case for using political action and collective action.”

He said, “No, that doesn’t really work because you gotta make sure the companies have a business model. If you don’t help them continue making money after you fix this, it’s not gonna work.” I just thought that was such an astonishing moment. A man who had actually run the most powerful machinery of state in human history saying, “No, we can’t use that machinery of state to protect children from harmful products. We have to make sure the companies have a business model on the other side.” Part of what I’m trying to interrogate in the book is: When did many of us start to believe that social change must be congenial to those profiting from the status quo?

Anand Giridharadas on the status quo.

2018-09-06T08:44:51+11:0019th February, 2019|Tags: culture, economics, politics|

The second industrious revolution.

I am neither for nor against temping (or consulting, or freelancing). If this emergent flexible economy were all bad or all good, there would be no need to make a choice about it. For some, the rise of the gig economy represents liberation from the stifled world of corporate America.

But for the vast majority of workers, the “freedom” of the gig economy is just the freedom to be afraid. It is the severing of obligations between businesses and employees. It is the collapse of the protections that the people of the United States, in our laws and our customs, once fought hard to enshrine.

We can’t turn back the clock, but neither is job insecurity inevitable.

Louis Hyman on jobs.

2018-08-28T10:55:02+11:006th February, 2019|Tags: business, economics|

The New Socialists.

The real answer is much simpler […] the thing that’s proved the most effective recruiting sergeant for socialism is capitalism itself. In fact, nearly 60 per cent [of university-educated Millennials] agreed with the statement “capitalism has failed”. But when a majority of young people say they think “socialism would be a good idea”, what they are actually talking about is the mixed economic system under which many of today’s ageing Thatcher–Reagan fanboys grew up. That is, a planned, concerted approach to the distribution of capital, rather than the debt-laden, short-term contract present in which our Hunger Games-style system has landed us.

Guy Rundle on why kids these days fuckin’ love socialism.

2019-01-16T07:51:26+11:0015th January, 2019|Tags: economics, politics|

So I wasn’t really expecting Karl Marx to talk about the economic impacts of mufti day1) in his seminal 1867 work, Capital. Volume I: The Process of Production of Capital and yet… here we are.

(I’m not even making this up. The English translation literally uses the word “mufti”—the term meaning “casual dress” has been in use since 1816—and it’s in the context of perceived worth and how a general has more of such, i.e. what we’d now call “social capital”, when in uniform as opposed to not.)

  1. (Incidentally, the term “mufti” in a modern context is probably kind racist, given its appropriative Orientalist roots, so… there’s also that.
2019-01-04T13:27:05+11:002nd January, 2019|Tags: books, culture, economics, politics|

Shock money.

This number is probably the truest measure of a person’s real wealth: What is the largest unexpected financial shock you could sustain without the cost of that to you suddenly becoming ten times the original cost or more? That number isn’t something easy to calculate; it depends on whether you have a family that can help you out, on your income, on whether that shock involves losing your job (and thus your health insurance, if you live in the US), on whether you have access to any other sources of security (including public assistance).

But it tells you a lot more about someone’s wealth than the total amount they have in the bank. […] If you want to understand economic class in the Western World today, here’s a simple rule of thumb: There are people for whom a shock that’s reasonably likely to happen within a year — a car breakdown, a lost job, and so on — would be catastrophic, and there are people for whom catastrophic events happen much more rarely. Those are your two social classes. All of the economic changes of the past few decades can be summarized as a lot of people who were previously in the second group (first factory workers, then a lot more “middle-class” jobs) suddenly found themselves in the first group (thanks to everything from the mortgage crisis to job automation).

Yonatan Zunger on true wealth.

Zunger goes on to posit that repeated shocks—particularly intentionally engineered shocks—are one of the easiest ways of redistributing wealth upwards.

2019-01-17T08:18:18+11:0021st December, 2018|Tags: culture, economics|

What if you didn’t?

I have a half-baked, three-quarters-joking theory of cryptocurrency, which is that it is a magical incarnation of a sort of male internet grievance. People — mostly men — sit around on Reddit complaining that they are underappreciated geniuses and that it is unfair that they have not been rewarded with vast wealth. They feel dispossessed and betrayed: They expected the modern world to reward computer literacy, but then they grew up to realize that the modern world, much like the old world, rewards mostly people skills and creativity and emotional intelligence. And then Bitcoin came along, and paranoid computer-literate people who spent a lot of time on the internet were the early adopters, and it became the world’s first economic system that allocates wealth basically for hanging around on Reddit. What [venture capitalist Alexia] Bonatsos describes is not an accident; cryptocurrency seems almost custom-designed as a way for the men to get all the wealth, again.

I know you are going to email me to complain about this theory, but what I want to propose here is: What if you didn’t?

Matt Levine on grievance.

2018-11-26T08:10:23+11:0017th August, 2018|Tags: cryptocurrency, culture, economics|

Same as it ever was.

The claim being made [by blockchain advocates] is not that we can engineer greater levels of cooperation or trust in friends, institutions, or governments, but that we might dispense with social institutions altogether in favor of an elegant technical solution.

This assumption is naïve, it’s true, but it also betrays a worrying politics—or rather a drive to replace politics (as debate and dispute and things that produce connection and difference) with economics. This is not just a problem with blockchain evangelism—it’s a core problem with the ideology of digital activism generally. The blockchain has more in common with the neoliberal governmentality that produces platform capitalists like Amazon and Uber and state-market coalitions than any radical alternative.

Rachel O’Dwyer on the stoic conservatism of blockchain.

2018-02-21T10:14:39+11:008th August, 2018|Tags: economics, politics, tech|

HIM: Aah, economics. It sounds so smart and convincing, yet is so constantly wrong!

ME (sagely): The White Man’s Science.

2018-08-10T11:43:09+11:008th August, 2018|Tags: economics|