In a number of posts recently I have highlighted the impact of declining workforces on economic growth and the way the policies pursued to address the Euro debt crisis are having the impact of accelerating the movement of young people away from the periphery and towards the core thus accelerating the decline in their working populations and exacerbating their growth problem.
This is a thought experiment. I have written in favour of private sector involvement in the past. And I don’t think this is a controversial topic. Where I do have problems with the Cypriot bank saver’s tax is in terms of property rights and law.
In the first paragraph of my book A Demon of Our Own Design (Wiley, 2007) I observe that “You don’t deliberately obliterate hundreds of billions of dollars of investor money. And that is at the heart of this book – it is going to happen again. The financial markets that we have constructed are now so complex, and the speed of transactions so fast, that apparently isolated actions and even minor events can have catastrophic consequences.” I then spend a significant portion of the book explaining the mechanics that lead the financial markets to lurch from crisis to crisis; why is it that while engineering in other fields increases safety, financial engineering seems to make things get worse. I suggest that the problem stems from the complexity and tight coupling that we introduce into the markets; complexity through financial innovations, tight coupling through leverage.
One lesson we should keep in mind as we recover in the aftermath of Sandy is that we are slow learners. Although the vulnerability of many of these communities is undeniable, we have resolved to rebuild the homes. That resolve will no doubt weaken if the region is revisited by similar disasters, and those displaced will be forced to move on. If climate change is at the root, that will happen. There will be a crescendo of such disasters, replaying thousands of times in populated areas across the globe. Hurricane Sandy thus has given us a glimpse into what will be the dominant theme of the twenty first century: forced migration.
I want to direct you to a post at the Institute for Public Accuracy that features political economy commentator Tom Ferguson because his analysis of exit polls is interesting. What he has picked up on is that the big divide in the 2012 vote was on income-based voting. Tom says: “Now look at the exit poll in today’s New York […]
Warning: This commentary is very DISTURBING – not for the faint of heart. Two days ago, a friend of mine told me via email about a comment on a blog post about whether MBA schools were incubating criminals that was truly disturbing. I didn’t know what to think of it, honestly. When news of the Dark Knight Returns killing came […]
we are seeing an ever shrinking number of people paying an ever greater portion of the taxes. Though they also are the ever shrinking number of people acquiring an ever greater portion of the wealth. There is little that matches the artfulness in waving off criticism of the widening income gap as “class warfare”. And there is little that matches the gullibility of those who follow along.
Could a new paper published by researchers from the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis finally answer the question of whether affordable housing laws caused the subprime crisis? Yes.
On the issue of the bifurcation of society and the widening income gap in the U.S., and the strains appearing from the factory system in China that have recently been highlighted, there is useful commentary that comes from a surprising quarter, or perhaps not surprising in itself, but in the view taken on the subject: Both Adam Smith and Joseph Schumpeter, defenders of capitalism as the source of “universal opulence”, see a road leading from capitalism to the disenfranchisement of the worker and the vaulting of the elite.
Taken to its end, industrialization class distinctions are revealed by conspicuous consumption. This points to the objective of industrial production: goods in the realm of common consumption become removed from social distinction. This is what Mumford meant when he stated that the machine is a communist. Products bear the same impersonal imprint. They either function or do not. There is no difference between the light bulb – or phone, or computer, or Kindle – of the common and the wealthy to signal a difference in status. The consummation of the industrial revolution, and insofar as we link the industrial revolution to capitalism, of capitalism as well, will occur when the same can be said in all areas of production.
We are seeing the specter of instability in the growing protests of income inequality, economic distress of the middle class, and economic and political power of the very wealthy. There is Occupy Wall Street in the U.S., and similar protests ranging across the globe. In parts of Europe there is rioting in the streets, in parts of China protests have turned deadly.
It was not immediately clear to many when the current crisis began that it was going to be this kind of event. The G7 and IMF understand how the cash register works and have vast experience in tweaking the cash register from time to time. What is required now is a new cash register. It will mark as large of a change as Reagan-Thatcher represented at that time. Yet just as it was impossible to anticipate the Reagan-Thatcher cash register when Nixon introduced wage and price controls in 1971, so too is it impossible to anticipate the next cash register now.