Shucking off the costs of the effects of climate change

As wildfires burn in British Columbia and rage in California, now is a good time to contemplate one of the nastiest results of the collision —  collusion? — of the corporatist’s insatiable love of profit and the neoliberal’s deification of small government.

Both of these stances zero in on the same fundamental target: taxation, in all of its forms. Not just direct taxes, graduated or not, but also those “extra” costs of doing business forced on industry by government regulation. The target is the same, for more than anything else the corporatist hates the loss of potential profit, and more than anything else the neoliberal hates the intrusion of “big government” into the marketplace.

Why is now such a good time to consider the consequences of this unholy alliance of the economic elite and the politicians it has purchased? Just look at the under-reported results.

Continue reading

“Your poverty is hurting my profits!”

Apparently, Jeb Bush now is urging Americans to work longer hours to help the economy. It seems that working Americans aren’t spending enough, which means that corporations aren’t making enough money. Financial disaster looms!

Talk about blaming the victims! First you gut the earning power of the working classes, then you scold them for not having the full-time, living wage jobs that fuel spending across the economy.

Continue reading

“Do no science, Hear no science, Speak no science”

41ngqcmfv3l-_aa324_pikin4bottomright-5722_aa346_sh20_ou15_As Donald Gutstein usefully explained in Harperism, there are several kinds of liberalism, and their differences are crucial to the ways that governments seek to operate.

Laizzez-faire” liberals were in favour of expanding personal rights and liberties, but they believed that government should remain “hands off” on the economy. (Adam Smith’s famous “invisible hand.”) In contrast, New Deal liberals saw government as an active shaper of economic opportunity, security, and relative equality.

Libertarians distrust government in all but its most basic function, which is simply to keep someone else from messing with their personal wealth and privilege. Then there are the neoliberals, who are often confused with libertarians but who demand that government play an active role in the economy. The neoliberal idea of a perfect government is one that supports and facilitates the free market.

Another must-read book is Chris Turner’s The War on Science (the source of this article’s title) which shows with alarming clarity that one of the worst consequences of the radical neoliberalism practiced by Stephen Harper’s Conservatives in Canada is his government’s systematic dismantling of the fact-based science that had long characterized Canada’s public policy.

Continue reading

Control the conversation, control the country

Canadian author Donald Gutstein is a friend of one of the members of our regular Monday morning ideas group, and recently we met with Donald to discuss his important book, Harperism: How Stephen Harper and his think tank colleagues have transformed Canada.

Unlike other books on Canada’s most conservative government, Harperism focuses on the political philosophy at the foundation of what to many is an alarming reversal of our country’s traditional role as an advocate of social justice and environmental responsibility.

It’s not that Harperism ignores these changes. On the contrary, Gutstein explains them in terms of the “neoliberalism” at their heart. This focus makes Harperism important far beyond Canada’s borders, for neoliberalism underpins the successful imposition of “free market” ideology into the policies of most of the world’s titular democracies.
Continue reading

Not to be Piketty, but these are the income inequality books to read

 

I’d slogged my way through the first third of Capital in the 21st Century when I gave in and googled the reviews. That shows a disappointing lack of dedication, I admit, but there’s only so much time in a life.

On the not unreasonable assumption that many of you aren’t academic economists, either, and that you have other things to do with the time in your lives, I have a few other book recommendations in the general area of income inequality and, more important, its impacts on society.

The three books that I’m recommending are quite different from each other, but nonetheless their shared conclusion — that too much of how, how well, even how long we live depends on the size of our slice of the wealth pie — justifies grouping them together.

Continue reading

Back in the virtual saddle

It’s been almost a year since I last posted anything on this page. I’ve been concentrating on book reviews and longer essays, on my other page, but the modest but persistent interest shown in the old posts on this page has led me to think that it might be time to post some topical articles again. (The two pages have now accumulated more than 75,000 reads.)

I still have strong opinions on the subjects about which I used to write, and so much has happened in the last year that would have been worthy of comment. So, I’m back. Perhaps not with my former frequency, but I hope with as much clarity and specificity as I can muster.

Meanwhile, don’t forget to read the book reviews, which will continue to be posted on More Notes from Aboveground.

See you soon.

 

The one percent’s solution

A growing chorus of economists has lately been trumpeting the undeniable truth that, badly expressed, got President Obama into trouble with the right-wing media last week.

What Obama said was that no one builds a successful business alone. There’s a necessary infrastructure of roads and bridges and schools and hospitals, of banking and trade and tax regulations, and much more.

While Obama’s “No, you didn’t” was willfully transferred from building the roads and bridges that he was talking about into a cynically inaccurate claim that the President doesn’t give any credit to individual initiative, at least some of the media spent a little of their time discussing what he’d actually meant.

I’ve dealt in this space with both The Self-Made Myth (reviewed and Robert Reich’s Aftershock.

Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz appeared recently on The Daily Show, promoting his latest book, The Price of Inequality. Stiglitz outlined the main ideas of the book in “The 1 Percent’s Problem,” published by Vanity Fair in May.

Stiglitz’s article caused quite a stir for arguing that it’s in the selfish interest of the super-rich to make sure that the not-rich get a bigger piece of the pie.
Continue reading

When a market economy creates a market society

The great missing debate in contemporary politics is about the role and reach of markets. Do we want a market economy, or a market society? What role should markets play in public life and personal relations? How can we decide which goods should be bought and sold, and which should be governed by nonmarket values? Where should money’s writ not run?

In “What Isn’t for Sale?” (Atlantic, April 2012), Harvard political philosopher Michael J. Sandel makes the central point that, almost without our noticing, “markets—and market values—have come to govern our lives as never before.” Continue reading