When the top-end-of-town realise their strategy is failing

There was an interesting article in the Financial Times on Monday (June 26, 2017) – Why US big business is listening to Bernie Sanders – which, despite the somewhat misleading and over-the-top headline, tells us a little of the way the full neo-liberal attack on workers is in regression. Not, I might add because of any philosophical or moral consideration. But, rather, the top-end-of-town is starting to work out that their headlong race-to-the-bottom approach over the last three decades is not actually in their best interests. The top-end-of-town is not that bright. More brutish than bright and it takes some time for them to work out what we have known all along. Globalisation mixed with neo-liberalism is poison. Globalisation mixed with social democracy is progress.
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    Posted in Economics, Labour costs | 22 Comments

    France has received its orders from the masters

    The 19 Member States of the Eurozone cover some 4,422,773 km2 of territory, much of that is densely populated. The geographic area of Australia covers 7,682,300 km2 and is mostly sparsely populated. The reason density matters is because it impacts on the resources that need to be expended to provide infrastructure across the geographic space. In the past month, the French people have elected a new President and a dramatically different National Assembly. In his election campaign, Emmanuel Macron spoke of being part of a major reform process for the dysfunctional Eurozone. To create some federal fiscal capacity including the idea of debt-mutualisation (issuing Euro-level debt) to match spending on public infrastructure etc, which could help to revitalise the stagnation that besets many regions across the currency union. In 2012, François Hollande was also elected on a reform ticket. The same day he was elected he visited Angela Merkel in Germany. The reform process ended before it started. He went away with no uncertainty about what the Germans would tolerate as masters of the union. Well within a short-time of being elected, Emmanuel Macron has also received his instructions from the Germans, this time in the guise of remarks made by Bundesbank boss Jens Weidmann. The orders are clear. Germany will never tolerate the creation of anything like a functioning federal fiscal capacity. End of story. Macron now knows the limits of his volition. What are the limits of being confined to a straitjacket?
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      Posted in Eurozone, Fiscal Statements | 11 Comments

      When Austrians ate dogs

      You will notice a new ‘category’ on the right-side menu – Future of Work. It will collect all the blogs I write as part of the production of my next book (with long-time co-author Joan Muysken) on that topic. We aim to present a philosophical, theoretical and empirical analysis of a plethora of issues surrounding the role, meaning and future of work in a capitalist society. As I complete aspects of the research process I will produce the notes via blogs. Eventually, these notes, plus the input from Joan will be edited to produce a tight manuscript suitable for final publication. Today, I am discussing an important case study that needs to receive wider attention. Its lack of presence is in some part due to the fact that it was written up in German in 1930 and escaped attention of the English-speaking audience until it was translated in 1971. In selected social science circles this study provides classic principles that transcend the historical divide. The relevance of the study is that it provides a coherent case for those, like me, who argue that work has importance to societies well beyond its income-generating function. Humans need more than just income and in a society where work is considered normal time-use and frames the time we spend not working, it is an essential human right. Progressives who think that only income should be guaranteed by the state rather than work miss many essential aspects of the issue. The case study is important in that respect.
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        Posted in Future of Work | 9 Comments

        The Weekend Quiz – June 24-25, 2017 – answers and discussion

        Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’s Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.
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          Posted in Saturday quiz | 18 Comments

          The Weekend Quiz – June 24-25

          Welcome to The Weekend Quiz. The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention or not to the blogs I post. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
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            Posted in Saturday quiz | 6 Comments

            Latest Greek bailout – a recipe designed to fail

            I have been looking at the latest Greek bailout deal between the Greek government and the European Commission/IMF), which was concluded last week (June 16, 2017) and released a further 8.5 billion euros in new loans to the Greek government which means it can make bond payments due in July. Despite all the statements from the European Commission and the IMF to the contrary, the terms of the deal with the Greek government confirms that these institutions have abandoned any pretence to being interested in serious economic policy. For the European Commission, the desired irrevocable status of the euro, as a political statement, is all it seems interested in when it comes to Greece. They just don’t want to admit that Greece cannot reasonably function in this monetary union. Just like the previous bailout agreements, this deal will fail. It actually only stalls the reality for yet another day and the only goal it serves is to keep Greece using a currency it cannot afford to use – afford in both monetary and real terms.
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              Posted in Eurozone | 13 Comments

              There is a true oppositional Left forming and gaining political traction

              I have avoided discussing the British and French parliamentary elections to date, mostly because I couldn’t stomach the outcomes – May back and the neo-liberal Macron dominant. I also was tired of reading stupid columns from the likes of William Keegan and the rest of the Guardian neo-liberals raving on about Brexit and Jeremy Corbyn. Keegan is like an old record that lets the needle get stuck in a groove. He seems to have written the same column since June last year where the reader is told about the Brexit disaster and how Britain will be impoverished. But both elections, particularly the British outcome confirms what we have been noticing for a few years now – there is finally what we might call a true oppositional Left forming and gaining political traction in these nations. This is a Left platform that concedes little to the neo-liberals. It is vilified by the conservatives and the so-called progressive commentariat (such as the Guardian writers) and politicians (New Labour in Britain) as being in “cloud cuckoo land” and predictions from all of sundry of electoral wipeouts have been daily. But the results demonstrated that the message (such as in the Labour Manifesto) resonates with millions of people (40 per cent of those who voted in Britain). It is now a mainstream Left message that has taken over the British Labour Party and the Blairites are hiding under rocks. There is hope. People will only tolerate being bashed over the head for so long. There is now retaliation going on.
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                Posted in Britain, Eurozone, Politics, UK Economy | 41 Comments

                Deepening the Economic and Monetary Union – no solution in sight

                Periodically, the European Commission puts out a new report or paper on how it is going to fix the unfixable mess that the Eurozone continues to wallow in. I say unfixable because all of the proposed reforms refuse to confront the original problem, which, at inception, the monetary union builders considered to be a desirable design feature – a lack of a federal fiscal capacity. They now know that this is the major issue but cannot bring themselves to deal with it directly. The politics won’t allow that. Everyone knows that Germany will veto such a development immediately and that would be the end of it. The latest report (May 31, 2017) – Reflection paper on the deepening of the economic and monetary union – maintains the inertness that was characteristic of previous ‘grand’ statements, such as the White paper on the future of Europe and the way forward (March 1, 2017) and the The Five Presidents’ Report: Completing Europe’s Economic and Monetary Union (June 22, 2015). So not much has happened in 2 years, despite the unemployment rate still hovering around 9.5 per cent, other than many workshops, conferences, reports, speeches, meetings in salubrious surrounds where the catering is the highlight and the conclusions moribund.
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                  Posted in Eurozone | 12 Comments

                  If Africa is rich – why is it so poor?

                  When I was a student, that is, formally studying for degrees rather than the constant-learning approach which makes us permanent students, I was very interested in development economics and have carried that into the career phase of my work, including doing commissioned work for international agencies in Africa and Asia. One of the things I have come up against in that work has been the question of why are the nations in Africa, for example, so poor, when it is obvious to all and sundry that they possess massive resource wealth. My student days introduced me to dependency theory, which provided a solid framework for understanding the nature of underdevelopment. It stood in contrast to the mainstream development theory that was presented in most textbooks and which we would now call the neo-liberal approach. That approach is publicly enunciated by the IMF and the World Bank as if it is reality. In fact, it is a chimera! The framework of development aid and oversight put in place by the richer nations and mediated through the likes of the IMF and the World Bank can be seen more as a giant vacuum cleaner designed to suck resource and financial wealth out of the poorer nations either through legal or illegal means, whichever generates the largest flows. So while Africa is wealthy, its interaction with the world monetary and trade systems, leaves millions of its citizens in extreme poverty – unable to even purchase sufficient nutrition to live. It is a scandal of massive proportions and should become the target of all progressive governments (as they emerge).
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                    Posted in Economics, IMF | 33 Comments

                    The Weekend Quiz – June 17-18, 2017 – answers and discussion

                    Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’s Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.
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                      Posted in Saturday quiz | 7 Comments