All posts tagged: Economics

A Taxing Question: Re-reading Piketty

Frank Lee reviews Capital in the 21st Century by Thomas Piketty This book by Thomas Piketty was first published in 2014 and became an instant best seller. It had taken the author some 15 years to research and complete, and deserves a detailed attention and analysis rather than the usual one-off, production-line tracts which are read and instantly forgotten. Piketty describes the end of an old epoch, the rise of the new – the golden age of welfare-capitalism, Le Trente Glorieuses, the Keynes/Beveridge consensus, call it what you will, circa 1945-1975 – and the re-emergence of a second rentier capitalism regime which began the early 1980s. Using apposite literary references to writers of the first gilded age he quotes: It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” Jane Austen – Pride and Prejudice An immortal sentence which says a thousand words. Such was the moral zeitgeist in Europe during the 19th century; Piketty then drives home the point by adding …

Lyndon LaRouche Is Dead, But We Are Alive

David Lindsay Lyndon LaRouche is dead. At least at one time, LaRouche believed that the Queen was a drug dealer, and that Henry Kissinger had been a Soviet agent of influence. As with Harold Wilson, against whom that allegation was also made, the Soviets ought to have demanded their money back. But no one is in a position to ridicule that if they have ever believed the official version of events in relation to Orgreave, Westland, or Hillsborough. Or any of all manner of claims that have been made by, or in support of, the Clintons. Or in the murder of 100,000 military age males in Kosovo. Or in the existence of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and in their capacity for deployment within 45 minutes. Or in Saddam Hussein’s feeding of people into a giant paper shredder, and in his attempt to obtain uranium from Niger. Or in an imminent genocide in Benghazi, in Gaddafi’s feeding of Viagra to his soldiers in order to encourage mass rape, and in his intention to flee …

Geopolitics of Europe and the Iron Law of Evolutionary Biology

Europe after the Brexit, NATO 70 summit and Turkish geopolitical vertigo Professor Anis H. Bajrektarević A freshly released IMF’s World Economic Outlook brings no comforting picture to anyone within the G-7, especially in the US and EU: The WTO Round is dead, trade wars are alive, GCC is rapidly Pakistanising while the Asia’s core and its Far East slows down. No comfort either comes from the newest Oxfam Report – Are 26 billionaires worth more than half the planet?, which the ongoing Davos Vanity Fair known as the WEF tries to ignore (as much as this gathering of capital sustains in ignoring labor). The Brexit after-shock is still to reverberate around. In one other EXIT, Sartre’s Garcin famously says: ‘Hell is other people’. Indeed, the business of othering remains lucrative: The NATO 70 summit will desperately look for enemies. Escalation, the best way to preserve eroded unity, requires the confrontational nostalgia dictatum. Will the passionately US-pushed cross-Atlantic Free Trade Area (substituting the abandoned TIPP and compensating for the Sino-US trade war) save the day? Or, …

Main Street, Brexitland

Tony Sutton People in England’s northern towns and cities are scared. Their fears stoked by xenophobic right-wing media, they hate Europe, and they hate migrants. But, most of all, they hate the way they are being squeezed into poverty by a post-industrial society that has turned dreams into nightmares and replaced hope with despair. Tony Sutton returns to South Shields, a place he once called home. British Prime Minister Theresa May has committed herself to a scheme to arrest the economic decline of the north of England. However, the plan, originally proposed by George Osborne, who was axed as Chancellor of the Exchequer after the exit of David Cameron as PM following June 2016’s Brexit vote, is still in a state of incoherence, doubletalk and indecision. Nothing has yet been agreed, other than the setting up of a think tank – the Northern Powerhouse Partnership – by Osborne, who raised few hopes for speedy action when he said at its mid-September launch: “Trying to turn around 100 years of relative economic decline is not going …

Paradigm shifts: The Great crash of 2008 revisited

Frank Lee Some years ago, I reviewed a book – State Building – by Francis Fukuyama. This was one of his lesser known works, he is more famous for being the theorist of the ‘end of history’ – a view fashionable during the days of neo-liberal triumphalism circa the 1980s. But the views espoused are much the same in both works. After the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe, and social-democracy effectively throwing in the towel in Western Europe, Mr Fukuyama postulated that liberal, deregulated, market capitalism was now the historical norm, and if countries had not arrived at this terminal point in their history then in the fullness of time they surely would. This teleology became the received wisdom in official circles, and I would argue still is, at least among the political, financial and media elites. Paradoxically, this consensus – let’s call it the Thatcher/Reagan settlement – represented almost a theoretical mirror image of the cruder types of Marxist historical materialism. The term ‘cruder’ is used sparingly, since it is questionable whether Marx …

GM Crops & the Agrarian Crisis

Father of Green Revolution in India Rejects GM Crops as Farmers Demand Justice in Delhi Colin Todhunter Genetically modified (GM) cotton in India is a failure. India should reject GM mustard. And like the Green Revolution, GM agriculture poses risks and is unsustainable. Regulatory bodies are dogged by incompetency and conflicts of interest. GM crops should therefore be banned. You may have heard much of this before. But what is different this time is that the claims come from distinguished scientist P.C. Kesaven and his colleague M.S. Swaminathan, renowned agricultural scientist and geneticist and widely regarded as the father of the Green Revolution in India. Consider what campaigner and farmer Bhaskar Save wrote in his now famous open letter in 2006: You, M.S. Swaminathan, are considered the ‘father’ of India’s so-called ‘Green Revolution’ that flung open the floodgates of toxic ‘agro’ chemicals, ravaging the lands and lives of many millions of Indian farmers over the past 50 years. More than any other individual in our long history, it is you I hold responsible for the …

Against the Stream

So, when did the Trente Glorieuses (1945-1975) end, and the great counter-reformation begin exactly? Some would argue when Nixon took the dollar off of the gold standard in 1971, or perhaps with the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991, or again possibly during the late 70s early 80s when the Anglo-American duo, Regan and Thatcher, rewrote the political playbook. It seems probable that the inflexion point was reached when the interaction of these variables attained critical mass; but this exact moment cannot be known. What is known, however, is that an historical shift – probably irreversible – took place involving the demise of the social-democratic, welfare-capitalist, model in western Europe and New Dealism in the US.

Happy ThanksGetting Day

Philip Farruggio Yes, we need to finally absolve ourselves, as Amerikans, from the con-job concerning Thanksgiving Day. All the ‘pomp and circumstance’ revolving around this holiday is just that, to quote Ebenezer Scrooge (one month early): Humbug! Of course, even the southern Colonial slaves and Northern ‘indentured servants’ of that era would be thankful to just have a roof over their heads and enough to eat each day. Yet, it was only the slave masters and owners of property and capital who could kneel in their churches or bow in reflected prayer at their lavish dinner tables in true thanksgiving. Amerika 2018 consists of well over 100 million of our citizens who are lucky just to stay head above water financially…perhaps a few paychecks from being out on the street…literally! How many families who live next door to me and to YOU (or maybe YOU yourself the reader) who have to have two (or more?) wage earners full time to just be able to function? How many single parents of even just one child need …

GMO Propaganda and Neoliberalism vs Localisation and Agroecology

Colin Todhunter What people communicate is a matter of choice. But what can be more revealing are the issues they choose to avoid. There are certain prominent pro-GMO activists who describe themselves as ‘science communicators’. They hit out at those who question their views or who have valid criticisms of GM technology and then play the role of persecuted victim, believing that, as the self-appointed arbiters of righteousness, they are beyond reproach, although given their duplicity nothing could be further from the truth. Instead of being open to questioning, they attempt to close down debate to push a flawed technology they have a vested (financial-career) interest in, while all the time appealing to their self-perceived authority, usually based on holding a PhD in molecular biology or a related discipline. They relentlessly promote GM and industrial agriculture and unjustifiably cast critics as zealots who are in cahoots with Greenpeace or some other group they have a built-in dislike of. And they cynically raise or lower the bar of ‘credibility’ by ad hominem and misrepresentation so that …

The Quiet Imperialism

Frank Lee reviews Beyond US Hegemony by Egyptian economist Samir Amin, who died earlier this year. This work was first published in 2006, but has been remarkably prescient in its evaluation of US strategic imperial policy before, and, a fortiori, after that date. Many, if not most, Americans and of course their Petainist vassals in Europe, have always been in denial about the imperial ambitions and practises of the US.

India’s Farmers Plan Mass March to the Nation’s Parliament as Agrarian Crisis Reaches “Civilization Proportions”

Colin Todhunter With over 800 million people, rural India is arguably the most interesting and complex place on the planet. And yet it is also one of the most neglected in terms of both investment and media coverage. Veteran journalist and founder of the People’s Archive of Rural India P. Sainath argues that the majority of Indians do not count to the nation’s media, which renders up to 75 percent of the population ‘extinct’. According to the Centre for Media Studies in Delhi, the five-year average of agriculture reporting in an Indian national daily newspaper equals 0.61 percent of news coverage, while village-level stories account for 0.17 percent. For much of the media, whether print or TV, celebrity, IT, movements on the stock exchange and the daily concerns of elite and urban middle class dwellers are what count. Unlike the corporate media, the digital journalism platform the People’s Archive of Rural India has not only documented the complexity and beauty of rural India but also its hardships and the all too often heartbreaking personal stories …

The Earthquake in International Alliances

Eric Zuesse America’s international alliances are transforming in fundamental ways. The likelihood of World War III is increasing, and has been increasing ever since 2012 when the U.S. first slapped Russia with the Magnitsky Act sanctions. In fact, one matter driving these changing alliances now toward unprecedented realignments is that some nations’ leaders want to do whatever they can to prevent WW III. On October 17th, America’s Military Times bannered “Why today’s troops fear a new war is coming soon” and reported, “About 46 percent of troops who responded to the anonymous survey of currently serving Military Times readers said they believe the U.S. will be drawn into a new war within the next year. That’s a jarring increase from only about 5 percent who said the same thing in a similar poll conducted in September 2017.” Their special fear is of war against Russia and/or China: “About 71 percent of troops said Russia was a significant threat, up 18 points from last year’s survey. And 69 percent of troops said China poses a significant …

Food, Justice, Violence and Capitalism

Colin Todhunter In 2015, India’s internal intelligence agency wrote a report that depicted various campaigners and groups as working against the national interest. The report singled out environmental activists and NGOs that had been protesting against state-corporate policies. Those largely undemocratic and unconstitutional policies were endangering rivers, forests and local ecologies, destroying and oppressing marginalised communities, entrenching the corporatisation of agriculture and usurping land rights. These issues are not unique to India. Resistance against similar practices and injustices is happening across the world. And for their efforts, campaigners are being abused, incarcerated and murdered. Whether people are campaigning for the land rights of tribal communities in India or for the rights of peasant farmers in Latin America or are campaigning against the fracking industry in the UK or against pipelines in the US, there is a common thread: non-violent protest to help bring about a more just and environmentally sustainable world. What is ultimately fuelling the push towards the relentless plunder of land, peoples and the environment is a strident globalised capitalism, euphemistically termed ‘globalisation’, …

WATCH: The Spider’s Web – Britain’s Second Empire

At the demise of empire, City of London financial interests created a web of offshore secrecy jurisdictions that captured wealth from across the globe and hid it behind obscure financial structures in a web of offshore islands. Today, up to half of global offshore wealth may be hidden in British offshore jurisdictions and Britain and its offshore jurisdictions are the largest global players in the world of international finance. How did this come about, and what impact does it have on the world today? This is what the Spider’s Web sets out to investigate

Economics: Class War by Another Name

Frank Lee The terrible case which … socialists are able to make out against the present economic order of society demands a full consideration of all means by which the ownership of property may be … made to work in a manner beneficial to that large portion of society which at present enjoys the least share of its direct benefits.(John Stuart Mill – Essays on Economics – 1824 I recall an old anarchist cartoon which was in the form of a pyramid. The top stratum consisted of Kings and Queens, millionaires, billionaires, high-ranking politicians, the military, ministers and statesmen and various other high-falutin’ members of the ruling elite: the adjacent caption read – “We rule you.” The next tier down, consisted of the Pope, cardinals, archbishops, priests and other members of the clergy: the caption read – “We fool you.” Beneath that there were soldiers and militia and police: the caption read – “We shoot you.” And the lowest, broader and most populous layer was – us, the ordinary folk, the caption read: – “we …

Recolonising India: Gross Maladministration and the Illegal Entry of GMOs

Colin Todhunter Despite five high-level reports (listed here) in India advising against the adoption of genetically modified (GM) crops, the drive to get GM mustard commercialised (which would be India’s first officially-approved GM food crop) has been relentless. Although the Genetic Engineering Approval Committee (GEAC) has given it the nod, GM mustard remains held up in the Supreme Court mainly due to a public interest litigation by environmentalist Aruna Rodrigues. Rodrigues argues that GM mustard is being undemocratically forced through with flawed tests (or no testing) and a lack of public scrutiny and that unremitting scientific fraud and outright regulatory delinquency has taken place. She is seeking a moratorium on the environmental releasee of any genetically modified organism (GMO) in the absence of: comprehensive, transparent and rigorous biosafety protocols; biosafety studies conducted by independent expert bodies; and access to biosafety protocols and data in the public domain. On Friday 24 August 2018 and in relation to the ongoing court proceedings surrounding GM mustard, Rodrigues filed an additional court application concerning the ongoing illegal imports of GM seed, GM soy cultivation in Gujarat and the presence …

How a Free Market Inevitably Produces Dictatorship

Eric Zuesse Who rules the land? A deeper and truer version of this question is: What rules the land? Is it the money (the aristocracy), or is it the people (the public, the residents on that land)? (For the interest of paleoconservatives, the issue of residents’ citizenship will come later here, as “immigrants” instead of as “citizenship”; but our basic focus is not ethnicity/nationality; it’s class: the money, versus the voters; not the natives, versus the foreigners.) In a democracy, the public rule — the people do — and it’s on authentically a one-person-one-vote basis, and anyone who is a resident in that land can easily vote, just like anyone else who lives there, because only the residents there, during the specific time-period of the voting, are the ultimate decision-makers, over that land, and over its laws. This is what a democracy is: it’s one-person-one-vote, and, in the political sense, it’s total equality-of-rights and total equality-of-obligations — real and total equality-by-law: equal rights, and equal obligations, for all residents. A democracy applies the same requirements to everyone. This does not mean …

India: The State of Independence

Colin Todhunter India celebrates its independence from Britain on 15 August. However, the system of British colonial dominance has been replaced by a new hegemony based on the systemic rule of transnational capital, enforced by global institutions like the World Bank and WTO. At the same time, global agribusiness corporations are stepping into the boots of the former East India Company. The long-term goal of US capitalism has been to restructure indigenous agriculture across the world and tie it to an international system of trade underpinned by export-oriented mono-cropping, commodity production for the global market and debt. The result has been food surplus and food deficit areas, of which the latter have become dependent on agricultural imports and strings-attached aid. Whether through IMF-World Bank structural adjustment programmes, as occurred in Africa, trade agreements like NAFTA and its impact on Mexico or, more generally, deregulated global trade rules, the outcome has been similar: the displacement of traditional, indigenous agriculture by a corporatized model centred on transnational agribusiness and the undermining of both regional and world food …

India Mortgaged? Forced-Fed Illness and the Neoliberal Food Regime

Colin Todhunter Like many countries, India’s food system was essentially clean just a generation or two ago but is now being comprehensively contaminated with sugar, bad fats, synthetic additives, GMOs and pesticides under the country’s neoliberal ‘great leap forward’. The result has been a surge in obesity, diabetes and cancer incidence, while there has been no let-up in the under-nutrition of those too poor to join in the over-consumption. Indian government data indicates that cancer showed a 5% increase in prevalence between 2012 and 2014 with the number of new cases doubling between 1990 and 2013. The incidence of cancer for some major organs in India is the highest in the world. The increase in prevalence of diabetes is also worrying. By 2030, the number of diabetes patients in India is likely to rise to 101 million (World Health Organization estimate). The figure doubled to 63 million in 2013 from 32 million in 2000. Over 8% of the adult male population in India has diabetes. The figure is 7% for women. Almost 76,000 men and 52,000 women in the 30-69 …

Haughty Imperialism: Genetically Modifying the Way to Food Security?

Colin Todhunter Those familiar with the debate around genetically modified organisms (GMOs) may be forgiven for thinking that science alone can solve the world’s food problems. The industry asserts that GMOs are vital if the world is to increase agricultural productivity and we are going to feed a growing global population. There is also the distinct impression that the GMO issue is all about ‘science’ and little else. People who question the need for and efficacy of GM have been labelled anti-science elitists who are responsible for crimes against humanity as they supposedly deny GM food to the hungry. Critics stand accused of waging a campaign of fear about the dangers of GM. In doing so, the argument goes that, due to ideology, they are somehow denying a technological innovation to farmers. Critics have valid concerns about GMOs and have put forward a credible evidence to support their views. But instead of engaging in open and honest debate, we see some scientists hardening their positions, lashing out at critics and forwarding personal opinions (unrelated to their specific discipline) based on their perceived authority as …