What Does ‘Economic Growth’ Mean for Americans?

12 de Dezembro de 2011 § Deixe um comentário

Suppose we placed a carefully selected sample of men on a hot stove and another sample of men on dry ice. Could we reasonably conclude that, on average, they were comfortable?

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[I]f an American macroeconomist — a specialist who tends to think of nations as people — or high-level government officials or politicians mimicking a macroeconomist boasted on a television talk show that “average family income grew by 3 percent during 2002-7, more than in most European economies,” about 99 percent of American viewers, reflecting on their own experience, would probably scratch their heads and wonder, “What is this guy talking about?”

U. E. Reinhardt – What Does ‘Economic Growth’ Mean for Americans?

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Greater Equality

24 de Novembro de 2011 § Deixe um comentário

Health and social problems are more common in countries with bigger inequalities.

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[R]educing inequality would increase the well-being of life for all of us. Far from being inevitable ans unstoppable, the deterioration in social well-being and quality of social relations in society is reversible.

R. Wilkinson e K. Pickett (2011), “Greater Equality“, The American Educator, Spring, pp. 5-9.

Oligarchy, American Style

7 de Novembro de 2011 § 1 Comentário

We have a society in which money is increasingly concentrated in the hands of a few people, and in which that concentration of income and wealth threatens to make us a democracy in name only.

The budget office laid out some of that stark reality in a recent report, which documented a sharp decline in the share of total income going to lower- and middle-income Americans. We still like to think of ourselves as a middle-class country. But with the bottom 80 percent of households now receiving less than half of total income, that’s a vision increasingly at odds with reality.

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But why does this growing concentration of income and wealth in a few hands matter? Part of the answer is that rising inequality has meant a nation in which most families don’t share fully in economic growth. Another part of the answer is that once you realize just how much richer the rich have become, the argument that higher taxes on high incomes should be part of any long-run budget deal becomes a lot more compelling.

The larger answer, however, is that extreme concentration of income is incompatible with real democracy. Can anyone seriously deny that our political system is being warped by the influence of big money, and that the warping is getting worse as the wealth of a few grows ever larger?

Some pundits are still trying to dismiss concerns about rising inequality as somehow foolish. But the truth is that the whole nature of our society is at stake.

Paul Krugman – Oligarchy, American Style

 

Ah ! Que la crise est jolie !

28 de Outubro de 2011 § Deixe um comentário

Il est temps : Indignés, Atterrés, Bafoués et Humiliés crient leur révolte contre les financiers spéculateurs, les politiciens tueurs de la politique et les bourgeois à qui ce que chantait Jacques Brel colle si bien.

« Ah ! Que la guerre est jolie » (Oh ! What a Lovely War) était le titre d’une comédie musicale (de John Littlewood, 1963) et d’un film (de Richard Attenborough, 1969) mettant en scène le désastre de la Première Guerre mondiale. Aujourd’hui, il n’est nul besoin d’artistes créatifs pour donner à voir la désolation de la crise et de sa gestion. Les gouvernements, les financiers et les agences de notation se chargent de faire le spectacle.

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Dès l’éclatement de la crise, pendant l’été 2007, tous les gouvernements promettent de « moraliser le capitalisme », de « réguler la finance » et de « supprimer les paradis fiscaux ». Ils vont même jusqu’à sauver les banques après la faillite de Lehman Brothers en 2008, alors que, jusque-là, ils assuraient que les marchés étaient auto-suffisants, efficients et stabilisateurs. La crise financière, née des contradictions d’un capitalisme qui n’en pouvait plus d’écraser son salariat, ne pouvait déboucher que sur une crise économique, avec récession, chômage et misère à la clé. S’étant déjà auto-mutilés en défiscalisant les riches, les États voient alors, sous le coup de la récession, exploser leurs déficits et leur dette. Les plus fragiles d’entre eux sont les premières cibles de la spéculation, puis de fil en aiguille : Grèce, Irland, Portug, Espa, Ita, Fr…

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Le ridicule ne tue plus, le cynisme ou l’ignorance non plus. Heureusement pour les économistes bien-pensants. Je me souviens qu’en 2002, j’avais commenté le livre d’un économiste qui croyait à l’efficience des marchés financiers et qui écrivait : « L’introduction d’une taxe Tobin pourrait ainsi remettre en cause les vertus du pouvoir de contrôle et de sanction des marchés financiers. »[1] Les vertus du pouvoir de contrôle et de sanction des marchés ! La crise est une vertu !

Le triste spectacle de l’économie est appelé à rebondir. On en redemande : ah ! que la crise est jolie !

 

[1] Y. Jegourel, La taxe Tobin, Paris, La Découverte, 2002, p. 70. Mon commentaire « La douleur des pauvres vaut-elle une taxe Tobin ? » m’avait valu des injures de tous bords. Dix ans après, je l’ai relu et, exceptée une petite erreur corrigée, je confirme. Les vertus du pouvoir de contrôle et de sanction des marchés financiers ! Il faut oser.

 

Jean-Marie Harribey – Ah ! Que la crise est jolie !

Marx was a profoundly moral thinker

14 de Setembro de 2011 § Deixe um comentário

There is a sense in which the whole of Marx’s writing boils down to several embarrassing questions: Why is it that the capitalist West has accumulated more resources than human history has ever witnessed, yet appears powerless to overcome poverty, starvation, exploitation, and inequality? What are the mechanisms by which affluence for a minority seems to breed hardship and indignity for the many? Why does private wealth seem to go hand in hand with public squalor? Is it, as the good-hearted liberal reformist suggests, that we have simply not got around to mopping up these pockets of human misery, but shall do so in the fullness of time? Or is it more plausible to maintain that there is something in the nature of capitalism itself which generates deprivation and inequality, as surely as Charlie Sheen generates gossip?

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Marx was a profoundly moral thinker. He speaks in The Communist Manifesto of a world in which “the free self-development of each would be the condition of the free self-development of all.” This is an ideal to guide us, not a condition we could ever entirely achieve. But its language is nonetheless significant. As a good Romantic humanist, Marx believed in the uniqueness of the individual. The idea permeates his writings from end to end. He had a passion for the sensuously specific and a marked aversion to abstract ideas, however occasionally necessary he thought they might be. His so-called materialism is at root about the human body. Again and again, he speaks of the just society as one in which men and women will be able to realize their distinctive powers and capacities in their own distinctive ways. His moral goal is pleasurable self-fulfillment. In this he is at one with his great mentor Aristotle, who understood that morality is about how to flourish most richly and enjoyably, not in the first place (as the modern age disastrously imagines) about laws, duties, obligations, and responsibilities.

Terry Eagleton – In Praise of Marx

Karl Marx Was Right

21 de Agosto de 2011 § Deixe um comentário

So Karl Marx, it seems, was partly right in arguing that globalization, financial intermediation run amok, and redistribution of income and wealth from labor to capital could lead capitalism to self-destruct (though his view that socialism would be better has proven wrong). Firms are cutting jobs because there is not enough final demand. But cutting jobs reduces labor income, increases inequality and reduces final demand.

Nouriel Roubini – Is Capitalism Doomed?

Liberal capitalism attempts to steam ahead as if nothing happened

8 de Agosto de 2011 § Deixe um comentário

Despite the enormous material and symbolic blows it has suffered, liberal capitalism attempts to steam ahead as if nothing happened. According to a study published in November 2009, the state bailouts of the financial system have cost $14 trillion in the US, Britain and the euro-zone, nearly a quarter of global output. Yet governments still seek to propitiate the financial markets whose continued survival depends on their own efforts. Public services are butchered in the drive to return to neoliberal ‘normality’. Most absurdly, market solutions are proposed to the enormous problem of global warming.

Alex Callinicos

in Callinicos, Alex (2010), Bonfire of Illusions – The Twin Crises of the Liberal World, Polity Press, p. x.