Category Archives: Social policy

Uber Economics: There is No Such Thing as Bad Publicity

Yves here. This post on Uber raises a sobering point about activism and human cognition. How do you opposed a cause you regard as dubious without unwittingly legitimating it? For instance, remember when one of the many justifications offered for the Iraq War was that Saddam Hussein was in cahoots with Osama bin Laden? Even though that idea was patently false, efforts to debunk it actually reinforced the connection between Hussein and Bin Laden simply by featuring their names in close proximity.

If readers, particularly activists, have ideas for how to steer clear of effectively promoting ideas and causes you are challenging, please let us know in comments.

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The Financialization of Life

Yves here. One of the efforts the Naked Capitalism community has been engaged in is trying to understand and map our emerging political and economic order. Over the last four decades, massive changes have taken place in social values, in job security, in the importance of communities relative to other networks, like professional associations, and in the role of the state. Economists, social scientists, and laypeople have used various frameworks for describing this period. Understanding the driving process is important not merely for the purposes of description, but also for analysis, since a major question remains open: is this a last gasp of large-scale industrial capitalism, or is this the starting phase of a new economic order? We’ve tended to see this period as a self-limiting finance-led counter-revolution against the New Deal, but that may prove to be too optimistic a reading.

This Real News Network interview with Costas Lapavitsas, a professor in economics at the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies, takes a different perspective. Lapavitsas contends that financialization itself constitutes a new form of capitalism, which is supported by neoliberal ideology.

Independent of whether you fully agree with Lapavitsas’ framing, this talk gives a good overview of the major economic and political changes since 1970. His summary would be useful for those who could use a historical perspective on these shifts, or want a high-level understanding of the restructuring of modern economies without having to get too deep into the weeds. But even though this interview is designed to go down easily, it offers a lot of grist for thought.

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The Biocultural Origins of Human Capital Formation and Economic Growth

The substitution from child quantity to quality has been credited for mankind’s escape from the Malthusian trap and the advent of sustained economic growth. This column argues that biocultural preferences for quality faced positive selection pressure in the pre-growth era, presenting evidence from the founding population of Quebec. Individuals with moderate levels of fecundity had fewer children than those with high fecundity, but produced more descendants in the long run because their children enjoyed higher reproductive success.

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For-Profit Colleges as Factories of Debt

Yves here. The American higher education system has been sucking more and more of the economic life out of the children that supposedly represent our best and brightest, the ones with intelligence and self-disipline to do well enough to be accepted at college.

But even though the press has given some attention to how young adults, and sometimes their hapless parent/grandparent co-signers, can wind up carrying huge millstones of debt, there’s been comparatively less focus on the for-profit segment of the market. While their students constitute only 13% of the total college population, they account for 31% of student loans. Why such a disproportionately high debt load? As this post explains, the for-profit colleges are master predators, seeking out vulnerable targets like single mothers who will do what they think it takes to set themselves up to land a middle class job. This is the new American lower-class version of P.T. Barnum’s “a sucker is born every minute.” These social aspirants are easy to exploit because they haven’t gotten the memo that the American Dream is dead.

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Social Norms and the Enforcement of Laws

Yves here. It is gratifying to see economists take up the question of when laws work, and perhaps even more important, how to make laws work even when they conflict with social norms. In typical economists’ fashion, they contend that as far as businesses work, fines work but more rules don’t. On further examination, that conclusion may not be well founded.

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Class Bigots: Finding Themselves On Third Base and Thinking They Hit a Triple

Yves here. I’m featuring this post from Angry Bear because it presents a vivid example of an increasingly common form of economic hatred: that of seeing anyone lower on the income ladder as fully deserving of their lowly status and a potential, if not actual, social parasite.

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All in the Family: How the Koch Brothers, Sheldon Adelson, Sam Walton, Bill Gates, and Other Billionaires Are Undermining America

Yves here. Even though monied dynasties have long had outsized influence in the US, Steve Fraser contends that billionaires and their scions like the Koch brothers, the Walton heirs, and Sheldon Adelson wield far more power than their predecessors and are in the process of remaking America.

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Matt Stoller: 5 Reasons for the Zephyr Teachout Phenomenon, and 5 Reasons Andrew Cuomo Is Still Governor

“New York’s a small town run by 1,000 decision-makers.” So says Hank Sheinkopf, a consultant in New York politics for more than 40 years and bouncer for the billionaire-fueled New York Democratic establishment. So how did Zephyr, who was not one of those decision-makers, have such an impact? I’ll try to answer that question and offer some observations her campaign and what it meant.

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STILL 1.4 Million Fewer Full-Time Jobs Than in 2008

Yves here. Despite his many faults, Bill Clinton at least recognized that the first responsibility of a Democratic president is to create jobs. Of course, Obama is a Democrat in name only, but until recently, just as the nobility understood its duty was to protect the peasants, the powers that be understood that providing for enough employment at at least adequate wages was one of their major responsibilities. Sadly, the idea of having responsibilities is sorely absent among today’s elites.

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