at the Progressive Economic Conference, Brussels 2nd March 2014
A debate involving James K. Galbraith, Yanis Varoufakis and Jeff Sommers (in the role of moderator) took place on 24th February at the University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee in the context of the George Kennan Distinguished Lecture Series. An amateurish recording is available here. For ease of ‘navigation’, a list of topics (with their location on the recording’s timeline) is presented below.
Technological fixes to time-honoured problems are all the rage these days. Bitcoin is meant to fix money, social media are seen as an antidote to Rupert Murdoch and assorted tyrants, networked robots are to help countries like Japan deal with demographic declines etc. Perhaps the largest claim is that the Internet has helped (or is about to help) democratise capitalism. Ten years ago that claim struck me as both fascinating and dubious. So, I sat down and wrote an article about it (circa 2004). Its gist: The Internet is a wonderful leveller. But democracy requires a great deal more than mere ‘levelling’. Primarily, it requires political institutions that enable the economically weak to have a decisive say on policy against the interests of the rich and powerful. Ten years later, I am re-visiting this question, under the shadow of a global crisis that made it even harder to convert an e’Demos into genuine e’Democracy. What follows is an updated version of the original paper. (Click here for a pdf version or just read on.) Continue reading
Moralizing and generalization have always been terrible foundations for public policy. Continue reading
The responses of many to my post on Bitcoin reveal a powerful tendency to underestimate the ill-effects of deflation on a social economy. This tendency to underestimate deflation’s deleterious impact matters beyond debates on Bitcoin per se. For example, in Europe the incapacity of the European Central Bank (ECB) to act in the face of deflationary forces has revealed the same type of misunderstanding, as many commentators fail to recognise that deflation is a very serious threat and that the ECB’s lack of weapons against it constitutes a major weakness. In this post I return to the problem of deflation in a Gold Standard-like monetary system (e.g. Bitcoin or, indeed, the Eurozone itself) but conclude that, almost paradoxically, the technology of Bitcoin, if suitably adapted, can be employed profitably in the Eurozone as a weapon against deflation and a means of providing much needed leeway to fiscally stressed Eurozone member-states. Continue reading
On 6th and 7th February 2014, the LBJ School of Public Affairs (University of Texas at Austin) organised a conference on the 20 years since the signing of the North America Free Trade Agreement Treaty, entitled NAFTA+20: Intended and Unintended Consequences. The organisers commissioned Danae Stratou to produce a photographic installation in the entrance of the auditorium in order to capture the experience of the US-Mexican Border Fence after NAFTA. The above video contains stills from that photographic installation plus the video (entitled THE GLOBALISING WALL) that Stratou presented and showed in the conference’s final panel.
Vicious, intense war broke out the other day. Hundreds if not thousands of people, in New York, in Chicago, in the great capitals of Europe, in China, rushed home on the news that hard-earned assets they were keeping in an inhospitable far away place had been placed under sustained, brutal military attack. By the end of the day, or more like it in the wee hours of the morning, exhausted by the battle’s intensity, the defenders took stock of the material damage: it amounted to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Continue reading
Before the Crash of 2008, the dominant view amongst the world’s policy-making elites was that global imbalances were not a problem. The great and the good in Washington and in London, in Paris and in Frankfurt, at Davos and on the golf courses where deals of note are struck, dismissed as economically-illiterate moaning-minnies all those who dared warn against large current account imbalances. Caught up in the soothing fiction of the ‘Great Moderation’, and the toxic fantasy that finance had invented ‘riskless risk’, the powers-that-be were adamant that we were living in a ‘new paradigm’. Continue reading
The United States is ungovernable.
Or at least it has been every time, post-Reagan, the White House has been controlled by a Democrat while Congress is in the clasps of a Tea Party infested Republican party.
An exasperated electorate is watching the gridlock. A playful, yet serious, manifestation of the resulting frustration is the pamphlet that my dear friend, Seattle divorce lawyer Carol Bailey, published recently and distributed to members of Congress in situ herself. It is, you guessed it, a divorce lawyer’s guide to easing congressional gridlock. (Click here for Carol’s appearance on CNN and here for a relevant article in Politico).
Carol’s pamphlet serves an important purpose that the cynic in me interprets thus:
Politicians pretend that they care about the nation, like parents care for their children. This is, of course, a fiction in most cases. Congress is in gridlock because a considerable number of regressive politicians want to paralyse government, as part of a crusade to see the state wither (i.e. to wreck the social safety net, that keeps poverty and its hideous impact from rising and rising) once Wall Street et al were bailed out successfully . Still, if they want to maintain the pretense that they care about the nation, that they are its proverbial fathers, they must explain to their voters why they are reluctant to follow Carol Bailey’s advice!
Roger Strassburg and Jens Berger, of NachDenkSeiten, interviewed me on the Modest Proposal to Resolve the Euro Crisis and the Eurozone Conference that James K. Galbraith and I organised in Austin in November 2013. Part A of the long interview was posted here. Here is Part B of the interview, which (as you will see) focuses more on Greece and the chances of kickstarting the debate that Europe is refusing to have, so far…. Continue reading
This is a stupendous story. Possibly for the first time in its tainted history, the International Monetary Fund had a major change of heart and tried to do the right thing by a ‘program’ country, only to be turned down by that very same country’s finance minister! Continue reading
Coming out of the festive season’s hibernation (spent in Sydney), I thought it appropriate to commence the New Year with a cheeky take on the usual clash between different ‘schools’ of economics, focusing on how each of seven such ‘schools’ might view Christmas… presents. Besides the comic value of the entries below, there is a serious aspect to them: for they reveal, at least, partly, the pompousness, the self-importance, the vacuity, the dark side even of each and every economic theory. Continue reading
[In May 2013 I had the pleasure of addressing the 6th Subversive Festival in Zagreb on this topic. It is only now that I have managed to write up that talk and to expand it in some significant ways.]
Europe is experiencing a slump that differs substantially from a ‘normal’ capitalist recession, of the type that is overcome through a wage squeeze which helps restore profitability. This secular, long-term slide toward asymmetrical depression and monetary disintegration puts radicals in a terrible dilemma: Should we use this once-in-a-century capitalist crisis as an opportunity to campaign for the dismantling of the European Union, given the latter’s enthusiastic acquiescence to the neoliberal policies and creed? Or should we accept that the Left is not ready for radical change and campaign instead for stabilising European capitalism? This paper argues that, however unappetising the latter proposition may sound in the ears of the radical thinker, it is the Left’s historical duty, at this particular juncture, to stabilise capitalism; to save European capitalism from itself and from the inane handlers of the Eurozone’s inevitable crisis. Drawing on personal experiences and his own intellectual journey, the author explains why Marx must remain central to our analysis of capitalism but also why we should remain ‘erratic’ in our Marxism. Furthermore, the paper explains why a Marxist analysis of both European capitalism and of the Left’s current condition compels us to work towards a broad coalition, even with right-wingers, the purpose of which ought to be the resolution of the Eurozone crisis and the stabilisation of the European Union. In short, the paper suggests that radicals should, in the context of Europe’s unfolding calamity, work toward minimising the human toil, reinforcing Europe’s public institutions and, therefore, buying time and space in which to develop a genuinely humanist alternative.
Keywords: Eurozone Crisis, immanent criticism, dialectics, Marxism Continue reading
On RT tv answering questions such as: Is Bitcoin a tulip-like bubble? Is it a currency? Is there room for competitors like Litecoin? Why are these digital currencies inherently deflationary? (For more on the subject read Bitcoin and the Dangerous Fantasy of Apolitical Money.)
In this interview James Galbraith explains our Modest Proposal for Resolving the Euro Crisis, argues that the Eurozone’s dismantling is a bad idea, discusses money and debt (in the context of Modern Money Theory) and, finally, comments on current developments in the US social economy. The interview was conducted by Roger Strassburg Continue reading