Sunday, October 30, 2011

A Marvellous Interview with Steve Keen: His Justified Assault on Neoclassical Economic Theory

Steve Keen has led the way in the assault of neoclassical economic theory, the model that has caused so much economic, social, and political havoc since at least the 70's, reaching its devastating crescendo in the recession that began in 2007 and which we still suffer. This is a good introduction to his must-read book Debunking Economics, now in its second edition. both the book and the video, which can serve as an introduction to the book, should be of interest to the occupy movement.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Envy and Resentment about DB Pensions: Do Something About It

Pension envy grows as boomers retire

Here we go again. Instead of acknowledging how unfairly to varying degrees workers in the private sector are frequently treated by their employers, how exploited they are in the name of profit since they are the most vulnerable component in the production process -commodities, as Marx noted, owners of only saleable labour - these writers, like so many on the right spectrum of economics, once again choose to resent the just achievements of collective bargaining in both the private and public sector. Teachers, firefighters, police officers, armed forces, government workers: our esteemed authors - probably graduates of the CD Howe Institute Neo-liberalism - are saying they do not deserve their defined benefits pensions. Why? Because most of the private sector employees don't get the same sort of benefits, and such benefits dig too deeply into government coffers, where austerity of course should rule.

Okay, all you folks in the private sector without DB plans who feel that way do something about it by confronting your employers instead of resenting the negotiated achievements of collective bargaining. I know that's a tough thing to do when almost everyone in the private sector is in effect a just-in-time worker living in fear, who can be axed at any moment. This is the established culture of neo-liberalism. You are instantly replaceable, and you know it. You feel powerless and your are, caught in the vicious web of capitalism. So join the occupy movement, wear a mask if you have to, and check out senior mangement's paycheck if you still want to feel envious and resentful.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Revised: Once Again the Financial Class Gets Help at the Expense of Ordinary People

Europe Agrees to Basics of Plan to Resolve Euro Crisis -
Belatedly, Europe finds a quick fix to its financial woes - The Globe and Mail

This does little for real people. When the EU talks about saving the economy, they really mean of course banks and their investors, those holding the sovereign debt. So the reason for insisting on further capitalization of the banks is to guard against potential soverign debt defaults and, in turn, to protect investors who hold soverign debt bonds through those banks. In other words, it's about financial panic, serving the 1% again, though if the banks were to collapse, it would indeed affect everyone: small and big businesses and those who work for them.

The big banks can no doubt find the capital by selling some of their assets or shares, but that might affect their balance sheet and tighten lending to their customers. The smaller banks won't have the same option and will probably have to look to governments to bail them out, a desperate move thus increasing the sovereign debt and adding even more pressure to the already deeply burdened taxpayer. It's difficult to say whether there is or will be a liquidity issue. But it's clearly a vicious circle. Add to all this the fact that the European Financial Stability Facility can only be jacked up with borrowed money - probably from China, whose economy itself is slowing down - and we have a recipe for continual disaster.

What I don't understand in this process is at a time when stimulating growth is vital why demanding further austerity measures from Greece and Italy help matters when the bond holders are already asking for premium interest rates on their sovereign debt, and why wouldn't they given that they've been asked to take a voluntary 50% haircut. Won't austerity paradoxically actually increase the amount or extend the term of sovereign debt if governments wish to keep functioning, and won't cutting jobs and slashing services create even more unemployment and thus erode the tax base and government revenues even further? Won't the GDP be further reduced?

All this is becoming a nasty habit, one the occupy movement clearly recognizes, for the real industrial economy and the ordinary citizen once again suffer for the sake of the investor class.

See too elsewhere on this blog: Fiscal Austerity: Does it Work?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Deconstructiing the Binary Opposition of Politics and Policy in the Harper Regime

Where good politics meets good policy :Dan Gardner's column in the citizen today. I can count on one finger "good policies" from the Harper Regime, and that finger shakes when the wind blows and twitches when I sleep. Yes, no question Harper would seem to choose politics over policy consistently, and when he would seem to choose policy at all, it's for political reasons, as in the ship building contracts through absentia. But when, on occasion, he would seemingly choose policy directly - unlike the ship building contracts - at the expense of politics, the policy is almost always not in the interest of all Canadians, but instead serves a narrow voter rich segment of the population, as is the case with the tough on crime bills, the Wheat Board abolition, and the slaying of the long-gun registry - which thus means that the policies are in reality politically motivated. And of course using surrogates, as in the gun registry business, is in itelf a political strategy to distance oneself from direct blowback should there be any. Sorry, Dan, such simple binary oppositions always fall apart. it doesn't matter whether the Harper policies are good or bad. It's politics - sometimes overt, sometimes subtle - all the time for the Harper Regime.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The American Dream: You have to be Asleep to Believe It

George at his most prescient, ranting best. How he would have loved the occupy movement.

The Progressive Party of Ontario is Fundamentally Unrepresentative of Ontarians

Just about all of the pco seats won in the recent election are in rural ON, and all of those elected seem to be white. How representative of the people of Ontario are the Hudakians when they clearly lack ethnic diversity and are so deeply concentrated in rural Ontario? And, add to these two glaring weaknesses, those rural ridings constitute only 25% of the average Canadian population but disproportionately have as much political power as an uban riding with three times the population. Ethnic diversity, rural concentration, disproportinate riding power: three fundamental ways in which the Hudakians are starkly unrepresentative and a clear reminder that we need to change both our riding structure and our voting sytem if we want really broad democratic representation. See my remarks on Proportional Representation elsewhere on the blog

Saturday, October 22, 2011

The Challenge of Envisioning Something Other Than Capitalism

Naomi Klein is dead right about our suspicion that we can never imagine our way outside of capitalism since we have been ideologically inscribed in it unconsciously for time immemorial it would seem - so much so that we have thorougly "naturalized" it as a given way of life. We are all cradle capitalists.

Tabatha Southey once told me everything is economics. She might have really meant capitalism. For Capitalism is indeed everything, and it involves of course much more than an economic system: capitalism informs and structures our political, social, psychological, biological, and economic daily lives. There is no facet of our existence that is not inside capitalism. Is it any wonder then we have difficulty trying to think outside it since we really aren't even aware that we're inside it? We've known nothing else. This is our reality. We are all prisoners of capitalism, and most of us, sad to say, are suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

And a simple reform or tweaking of capaitalism is not really the answer - such quick remedies as regulating investment banks, for example. For the occupy movement at its root is about system change, not reform, even if that change can't be either envisioned or articulated at this particular early moment. This is indeed the beginning of a shift or full disruption, as Thomas L. Freidman suggests, but that full change will not happen overnight. It may take years. I call it sloppy democracy. and the important point is patient perseverance in small and big ways everywhere.

Naomi Klein Interview at Occupy Wall St. Grounded News, video report 7

Monday, October 17, 2011

Simulation of Ontario Vote Suggests Proportional Representation Has Merit

                                        Voting system affects outcome, simulation finds - Ottawa - CBC News

This experiment is fascinating. What I find most intriguing are the hypothetical outcomes in terms of both a percentage of the popular vote and seat distribution based on the actual results of out first past the post Ontario election:

                                                    Actual FPTP Election Outcome and Weighted AV and PR Vote Results
FPTP (Actual election outcome)AV (first preferences)PR
Liberal37.6 %33.6%32.1%

                                                    Actual FPTP seat distribution and estimated PR seat distribution

FPTP (actual election outcome)

Notice how radically different, in particular, the distribution of seats would be under an actualized PR system and how much of the power shifts to both the ONDP and the GPO away from the OLP and PCPO.
There is little doubt that PR is a more fundamentally democratic system of voting for the simple reason that it is more representative of actual voter participation and presumed intention. It does lead to an entirely different kind of governing structure involving much negotiation and many  trade-offs, true, but it is representational government at its most core level - which is why so many around the world use it as their voting system despite the challenges.
And our voting system of FPTP is certainly one but not the only reason for such profound voter indifference and apathy, especially from young and less educated voters, who feel  -  given that they think at all about an election - that  were they to take the time to vote, their vote would almost always be wasted unless they voted for the FPTP winner:  you vote for candidate x, but you don't see that vote reflected in the results in any way.  With a PR system, no matter for whom you voted, you do. It seems to me that this potential for real political participation is a very good reason to begin a serious public conversation about our voting system.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Big Media's Search for the Meaning of the Occupy Phenomenon

#BigMedia 's search for coherence, for  an articulated purpose or clearly enunciated demand -  for the  "real meaning" of the #occupy movement - is  amusing if not characteristic.  ("What do they want?"  "What are their demands?" "Who are the leaders?" "Who are the spokespeople?"  "It seems so incoherent." "They're not proposing solutions.")  If we can centre it, if we can reduce it to this one thing, if we can structure it, we can understand it and then either control or, through  binary oppositions, confront it.  And the media, especially TV, if it loves anything, it loves binary oppositions - black and white, wealthy and poor - and its ever faithful sidekick, reductionism, which involves depleting the complexity out of an issue. 

The most common reduction strategies we've seen since the beginning of #occupywallstreet  include the following:  it's about fixing abuses in the banking system (Mark Carney's take), it's about economic or income inequality, it's about corporate greed,  or it's about the failure of governments.  All of these presuppose, as Carney does, that all that is required is some sort of fix  of the current system, be it banking or government.  But it's not about fixing. It's about changing, transforming, the system completely - maybe even creating a new one - and in order to begin that public conversation we need all the disparate social and economic elements to mass in one giant incoherent mess, as they are now, across the globe both in physical and virtual space.

Critics of the movement are saying it will fail since it appears to lack coherence and a so-called goal, but the absence of these protest conventions are the very things that give the movement a heretofore unseen and unusual power. Demand implies negotiation, as Naomi Klein has said, but this is not a negotiation. This is not a protest. It's  a self-enabling distribution of power - a dispersal of power if you will.  It's a magnificent sloppy movement in which everybody is talking to everybody about everything. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Global News | Interactive map: 'Occupy Wall Street' events taking place across Canada on Saturday

Global News | Interactive map: 'Occupy Wall Street' events taking place across Canada on Saturday

"Occupy Wall Street" events across Canada are continuing the movement that began with a small group of people in New York City weeks ago. “Occupy” events have since spread beyond Wall Street to cities across the U.S. and international borders.
Here are some of the events happening in Canada this weekend:

Occupy Vancouver:
Occupy Kelowna:
Occupy Edmonton:
  • October 15 starting at 12:00pm
  • Sir Winston Churchill square, (99st & 102 Avenue) Edmonton
  • Follow on Twitter @OccupyYEG

Occupy Calgary:
Occupy Saskatoon:
  • October 15 starting at 9:15pm
  • Protesters will meet at the U of Sask. at 9:15am, then march from the top of University Bridge to River Landing. The event will move to Friendship Park at 1:00pm.

Occupy Toronto:
Occupy Ottawa:
Occupy Montreal:
Occupy Moncton: