All posts filed under: Economics

A Balanced View of the Economics of Independence in Catalonia

by Angel Ubide, PIIE, September 15, 2015 Editor’s Note: In the light of the recent independence referendum in Catalonia, in which some 43% of the population took part despite police attempts to prevent the vote from taking place by means of violence, we are posting this 2015 article on the economics of the proposed secession. Two years after voters in Scotland rejected independence from the United Kingdom, Spain faces the threat of breakup as Catalonia holds regional elections on September 27. The Catalan president, Artur Mas, leads a pro-independence coalition for these elections, Junts pel Si (Together for Yes), with a single aim: to start a process of independence culminating in secession in 18 months. Polls show the independence coalition achieving a narrow majority in Parliament, though with just 40 percent of the popular vote. With its capital in Barcelona, Catalonia, a region of about 8 million people on the Mediterranean coast just below the Pyrenees, is one of Spain’s more prosperous regions. The pro-independence coalition argues that an independent Catalonia would be economically better …

Vladimir Putin’s 17 years in power: The scorecard

by Alex Krainer, The Naked Hedgie Editors: Today, October 7, 2017, Russia celebrates the 65th birthday of Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin.  To mark the occasion, we are posting Alex Krainer’s review of Putin’s achievements since 2000. Mr. Putin can’t seem to get a break in the western media. I watched his recent interview with CBS’s Megyn Kelly with her tiresome, boring questions like, “did Russia interfere in our election,” “did your ambassador meet with Trump’s election officials,”  “isn’t it true that you’re a corrupt murderous thug,” etc. Only in response to Kelly’s last question did Mr. Putin get to name a handful of his achievements in Russia. But someone ought to better prepare his talking points on this score. The excerpt below from my upcoming book summarizes how Russia has changed during the 17 years since Mr. Putin has been at the helm. On 26th July 2014 British magazine “The Economist” published an article titled “A web of lies,” opening with the following two sentences: “In 1991, when Soviet Communism collapsed, it seemed as if the …

Greece has become the EU’s third protectorate

by Jan Zielonka, August 14, 2015, OpenDemocracy The EU looks increasingly like an empire, having just created its third protectorate in the Balkans. Greece will effectively be run by the EU the way Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina already are. The EU looks, walks and talks like an empire. After extending its borders into Central and Eastern Europe, the EU has just created its third protectorate in the Balkans. From now on Greece will effectively be run by the EU the way Kosovo and Bosnia-Herzegovina already are. Empire is not a synonym of evil despite some bad historical connotations, especially from the colonial era. Power can be exercised in noble ways, and peripheries often prefer to be “conquered” than abandoned. However, the EU’s ambition to run dysfunctional countries by decree is doomed to fail and will represent yet another blow to the project of European integration. Formal involvement of the UN or the IMF in running the protectorates will not exonerate the EU. Enlargement to Central and Eastern Europe has been successful because it empowered local actors. …

The Single-party French State

by Diana Johnstone, June 21, 2107, via Counterpunch French legislative elections follow hard on the heels of the Presidential election.  The momentum virtually ensures a presidential majority.  So it was taken for granted that voters would give President Emmanuel Macron a docile parliament for his five-year mandate. But these elections were exceptional.  The victory of Macron’s personal party, la République En Marche (REM), is novel in several ways.  Not only has REM won an absolute majority of 350 out of 577 seats in the National Assembly.  REM’s victory has also bled the two traditional governing parties, the Republicans and the Socialists, perhaps fatally. With over 130 seats, the Republican Party of former President Nicolas Sarkozy and its allies came in second, and thus ranks as leading opposition party.  But since Macron successfully lured two Republican politicians into prominent positions in his government – Edouard Philippe as Prime Minister and Bruno LeMaire as Economics Minister – it is hard even for the Republicans’ current leader, François Baroin, to explain just what they will oppose.  How can …

Euro-visions

Lexit’s Digest No. 14, 19 September 2017 Juncker’s recent ‘State of the Union’ address was widely applauded by Europeanist media outlets. For example, Politico was very impressed by the Commission President’s ‘bold vision for Europe’: One speed. One currency. One president. No to a multi-speed Europe, all 27 Member States shall join the euro-zone and the Schengen agreement rather quickly after Brexit. EU enlargement shall continue, in particular with the Balkan states. How the governments of these entities ‘adapt’ to the Greek style ‘labour market reforms’ expected by the EU from such poor peripheral countries – see an interesting interview on LeftEast on this with Aleksandar Matković (a researcher at the Institute for Philosophy and Social Theory at the University of Belgrade)  here. In that general context it is interesting to see that Andrew Watt – formerly a senior researcher at the European Trade Union Institute in Brussels and now working at the Hans Böckler Foundation of the German trade unions – was very positive about Juncker’s proposals. Equally interesting, his colleague Daniel Seikel, also …

The 6th mass extinction is a product of capitalism — not population growth

by Barnaby Philips, 25 August, 2017, via RCG ‘Every particular mode of production has its own special laws of population, which are historically valid within that particular sphere. An abstract law of population exists only for plants and animals and even then only in the absence of any historical intervention by man’ – Karl Marx, Capital, Volume 1, Chapter 25, pp783-784 ‘You don’t need to be a scientist to know what’s causing the sixth mass extinction,’ began Professor Paul R. Ehrlich in a Guardian article on 11 July. Given the ‘developed’ imperialist world’s throwaway consumerism and the well-documented destruction of the environment by multinational corporations, it should indeed be fairly obvious. Ehrlich however names one main culprit: population growth. His solution? Some unspecified form of ‘humane’ population reduction. Apparently the reason you don’t need to be a scientist is because the pseudo-science of eugenics suffices. Ehrlich must be refuted with science.  It is capitalism’s need for infinite economic growth that is destroying life on earth. Ehrlich is best known for his 1968 book The Population Boom, which warned that …

The German Election: The West’s Nervous Breakdown Continues

by Gregory Barrett, September 25, 2017 Following Sunday’s nationwide parliamentary election here in Germany I can hear the mocking laughter of 1989’s ghost, echoing throughout Europe and around the world. The great victory march of the “Free Market” Religion, which featured pompous, self-righteous politicians, pundits, and other worshippers at the altar of Big Finance strutting and crowing in the years following the fall of the Wall about the final demise and alleged failure of the supposedly evil and misguided socialist idea, has come to a grinding halt. The rapid growth of the anti-immigrant, anti-EU party Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) in Germany – which received almost 13% of the vote and will now be the third biggest party in the new Bundestag or parliament — has been driven, above all, by widespread rage and frustration in Germany’s Eastern states, the former communist German Democratic Republic (Deutsche Demokratische Republik, DDR), over the broken promises made at the time of German reunification regarding “blooming landscapes” (former Chancellor Helmut Kohl) and the associated affluence that was to be expected …

America is Regressing into a Developing Nation for Most People

by Lynn Parramore, April 20, 2017, via Institute for New Economic Thinking A new book by economist Peter Temin finds that the U.S. is no longer one country, but dividing into two separate economic and political worlds You’ve probably heard the news that the celebrated post-WW II beating heart of America known as the middle class has gone from “burdened,” to “squeezed” to “dying.”  But you might have heard less about what exactly is emerging in its place. In a new book, The Vanishing Middle Class: Prejudice and Power in a Dual Economy, Peter Temin, Professor Emeritus of Economics at MIT, draws a portrait of the new reality in a way that is frighteningly, indelibly clear:  America is not one country anymore. It is becoming two, each with vastly different resources, expectations, and fates. Two roads diverged In one of these countries live members of what Temin calls the “FTE sector” (named for finance, technology, and electronics, the industries which largely support its growth). These are the 20 percent of Americans who enjoy college educations, have good …

The Economics of Imperialism

by Philip Roddis, via Steel City Scribblings The most important book I’ve read in years is John Smith’s Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century: Globalization, Super-Exploitation and Capitalism’s Final Crisis. Here’s an abridged extract from its opening words: The collapse of Rana Plaza, an eight-story building housing textile factories, a bank and shops in an industrial district north of Dhaka, Bangladesh’s capital, on 24 April 2013, killing 1,133 garment workers and wounding 2,500, was one of the worst workplace disasters in history. This disaster, and workers’ grief, rage, and demands for justice, stirred sympathy and solidarity from working people around the world— and a frantic damage-limitation exercise by the giant corporations that rely on Bangladeshi factories for their products yet deny any responsibility for the atrocious wages, living, and working conditions of those who produce all their stuff. Adding to the sense of outrage is the fact that, the day before, cracks had opened in the building’s structure. An initial inspection resulted in its evacuation and a recommendation that it remain closed. Next morning a bank and …

Venezuela Under Siege by U.S. Empire

by David William Pear, July 20, 2017, The Real News Network It is all about the oil. Whatever else one hears about Venezuela, it is all about the oil. That is what one needs to know first about why the U.S. Empire has Venezuela under siege. It is about the oil. When President Trump says, “Venezuela is a mess; Venezuela is a mess, we will see what happens”, it is all about the oil. When the U.S. Empire imposes sanctions on Venezuela, it is all about the oil. When the mainstream corporate media (i.e. Fake News) cries crocodile tears about democracy, human rights and political prisoners in Venezuela, it is about the oil. When the U.S. calls into session emergency meeting of the United Nations and the Organization of American States, it is about oil. Venezuela has the largest known reserve of oil in the world, and Venezuela controls its own oil, not international corporations; and it uses its oil for the benefit of its people. The U.S. Empire instead wants to control that oil and …

How Prison Labor Is the New American Slavery

by Sara Burrows, June 13, 2016, via Return to Now If you buy products or services from any of the 50 companies listed below (and you likely do), you are supporting modern American slavery. American slavery was technically abolished in 1865, but a loophole in the 13th Amendment has allowed it to continue “as a punishment for crimes” well into the 21st century.  Not surprisingly, corporations have lobbied for a broader and broader definition of “crime” in the last 150 years.  As a result, there are more (mostly dark-skinned) people performing mandatory, essentially unpaid, hard labor in America today than there were in 1830. With 5 percent of the world’s population and 25 percent of the world’s prison population, the United States has the largest incarcerated population in the world.  No other society in history has imprisoned more of its own citizens.  There are half a million more prisoners in the U.S. than in China, which has five times our population.  Approximately 1 in 100 adults in America were incarcerated in 2014.  Out of an adult population of 245 …

China: World’s Leading Defender of Human Rights?

by Kevin Kennedy, May 20, 2016, CanadianPatriot.org “Your question is full of prejudice against China and arrogance … I don’t know where that comes from. This is totally unacceptable,” Was part of the translated response of Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, at a recent press conference with Canadian Foreign Minister Stephane Dion, when an iPolitics reporter audaciously asked why Canada is pursuing ties with a China which is ‘mistreating human rights advocates.’ CBC later released a scathing ‘analysis’ comparing President Xi to Chairman Mao, and citing Soros hit-squad Human Rights Watch saying, the regime “has unleashed an extraordinary assault on basic human rights and their defenders with a ferocity unseen in recent years …Senior Chinese leaders, perceiving a threat to their power, now explicitly reject the universality of human rights, characterizing these ideas as ‘foreign infiltration,’ and penalizing those who promote them.“ Many people complain about the ‘human rights record’ in China, and ask how someone can align with such an ‘undemocratic,’ ‘cruel and corrupt regime.’ Many of these people seem to have a prejudice and an unmalleable memory, which is either frozen, …

‘Inclusive Capitalism’, Nancy Pelosi, and the Dying Planet

by Paul Street, July 21, 2017, via CounterPunch A recent Washington Post and ABC poll finds that just 37 percent of Americans think that the Democratic Party “stands for something.”  Fifty two percent say it’s about nothing more than opposing Trump. The 37 percent is right. The Democratic Party stands for something, alright.  It stands for the socio-pathological system of class rule and environmental ruin called capitalism – and for capitalism’s evil Siamese twin imperialism. So does the far more openly right-wing Republican Party, of course, but that’s fairly common knowledge.  It’s more complicated with the Democrats, who like to pose as being “on the left” while carrying water for Big Business. It’s nothing new. Long before the rise of dismal, dollar-drenched neoliberal era Dems and Robert Rubin associates like Bill Clinton and Barack Hamilton Project Obama, the Democrats stood in the lead of the profits regime. This goes all the way back to that savage Indian-killer Andrew Jackson and up through that quintessential corporate liberal Woodrow Wilson, New Deal hero Franklin Roosevelt (who boasted about having saved the …

Number of European working poor doubles in a decade

by Elisabeth Zimmermann , 12 July 2017, WSWS More and more people in work in Europe are being forced into poverty. This is demonstrated by a new study by the Hans Böckler Foundation which was made public last Thursday.  The study, titled “Activation policies and poverty,” notes that a growing proportion of the population of Europe live in poverty, although they are working. The researchers from the Economic and Social Sciences Institute (WSI) of the Böckler Foundation examined the effects of labor market and social policy measures in 18 EU countries from 2004 to 2014. All of the measures were aimed at forcing unemployed people into low-wage labor. According to their research, an average of about 10 percent of the workforce aged between 18 and 64 in the countries studied were “working poor.” This means they earn less than 60 percent of the average income in their country. The proportion of working poor was highest in Romania at 18.6 percent, followed by Greece, 13.4 percent, and Spain, 13.2 percent. In Germany, the number of working …

Nicolas Sarkozy: “No Way To Let The French Colonies Of Africa Have Their Own Currencies!”

by Matthew, via How Africa In an interview with the BMTV television channel, [former president of France] said that the best way to preserve the health of the French economy is to keep the FCFA as the only currency usable in the former French colonies in Africa. France can not allow its former colonies to create their own currency to have total control over their central banks . If this happens, it would be a catastrophe for the public treasury that will lead France to the rank of 20th world economic power. There is no question, therefore, of letting the French colonies of Africa have their own currencies What is the CFA Franc? The CFA franc is the name of two currencies common to several African countries, partly comprising the Central African franc zone (CEMAC) and the franc zone of West Africa ( UEMOA). How does the CFA Franc work? Principle 4 is the most technical. First, it should be noted that the Banque de France opens an account for each central bank (one for …

It’s The Economy Stupid: The Gathering Storm

by Frank In the face of deteriorating global economic conditions the financial and economic powers-that-be seem fixated on policies which are both ineffective and inappropriate. Anyone who entertains the notion that central banks around the world actually know what they are doing, and have the magic box of tricks to get the world economy back on track, really ought to take another look at where we have arrived, and where we are going. Recently the Chairman of the Bank of England (BoE) and former Goldman Sachs employee, Mark Carney, announced new a monetary stimulus package designed to get the UK economy moving again. It consisted of the following measures: Interest rates at a record low of 0.25%, a level not seen in the BoE’s 322-year history with more to come. An extra £60bn of newly created money to buy government bonds, drive down gilt yields and force investors into riskier assets A new £100bn scheme to encourage banks to lend cheaply to UK companies A pledge to buy £10bn of corporate debt issued by UK …

If they don’t want more austerity, racists & non-racists should vote Le Pen

by Ramin Mazaheri The fundamental problem in France today is that racists aren’t polling for Jean-Luc Melenchon. Who? He ran 4th in France’s presidential election in 2012. Same as Jill Stein and you’ve heard of her. He has created the superbly-named Disobedient France Party. You don’t hear about him for the same reason that what you likely read about the recent Austrian election were exhales over the “far-right loss”, when you should have heard “a Green Party wins for 2nd time ever in Europe” (after Latvia). The reason for this is that Western mainstream media is fundamentally capitalist when private and fundamentally status quo when public – that they have no interest in promoting leftist victories, ever. Not even a left-center one like in Austria. For them, history is over – there is no alternative to right-wing economics like austerity as well as the continental domination of Brussels. This rightward fundamentalism is why most of the world knows who ran third in France’s 2012 election – Marine Le Pen of the National Front. Le Pen …

Globalization: The Endgame

by Frank The Federal Reserve Board’s decision to implement a rise in interest rates this month is widely expected. However, this is only the second time in 8 years that this has occurred, the first 0.25% in December of 2015 and, as seems likely, 0.25% one year later. This is hardly tight monetary policy; 50 basis points in 8 years is largely symbolic, although, having said this, the January 2015 hike did cause quite a kerfuffle in the markets. The Fed’s monetary incontinence has been replicated by central banks around the world in their attempts to deal with the bust of 2008, and the sluggish growth since that time. Monetary policy (to be distinguished from fiscal policy) has been used to counter deflationary trends and act as a prop to stave off complete economic/financial collapse. The policies involve several guidelines which include control of interest rates, bank reserve ratios, and Quantitative Easing (QE). The theory and practice of QE is not new. Once called Open Market Operations it involves the Central Bank – in this …

A View From Afar: Trumped! It was the economy, stupid

by Dennis Broe Everyone, meaning mostly the neoliberal elite, is searching for answers at the moment for why the billionaire Trump beat the corporate candidate Clinton. Was it his xenophobic rhetoric which drew angry white Americans, his macho humiliation of women in the face of which his supporters had to hold their noses to vote for him, or was it the (Trumped-up) charges of “Crooked Hilary” aided and abetted by the FBI “October Surprise” of a new treasure trove of (probably mostly irrelevant) emails that are now being “investigated.” A revealing article here in Paris in Le Monde on the eve of the election seems instead to contain the answer for why solidly union and industrial states like Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania would abandon the Democratic party and vote for Trump, who after all was not the choice of the Republican elite. For decades now, politicians have looked to the October economic, labor and jobs report, released last week, to boost their status just prior to the elections. And indeed, the report showed the creation …

“Militarized neoliberalism” and the Canadian state in Latin America

by Jen Moore, via The Monitor Stories of bloody, degrading violence associated with Canadian mining operations abroad sporadically land on Canadian news pages. HudBay Minerals, Goldcorp, Barrick Gold, Nevsun and Tahoe Resources are some of the bigger corporate names associated with this activity. Sometimes our attention is held for a moment, sometimes at a stretch. It usually depends on what solidarity networks and under-resourced support groups can sustain in their attempts to raise the issues and amplify the voices of those affected by one of Canada’s most globalized industries. But even they only tell us part of the story, as Todd Gordon and Jeffery Webber make painfully clear in their new book, The Blood of Extraction: Canadian Imperialism in Latin America (Fernwood Publishing, November 2016). Rather than a series of isolated incidents carried out by a few bad apples,” they write, “the extraordinary violence and social injustice accompanying the activities of Canadian capital in Latin America are systemic features of Canadian imperialism in the twenty-first century.” While not completely focused on mining, The Blood of …