Category Archives: Social values

Snowstorm: New York Makes It Illegal to Be an Idiot

As often happens with snowstorms, the forecasters look to have gotten it a bit wrong, with supposedly epic snowfall of two feet plus for New York City now significantly downgraded by the Weather Channel, which has a bias to overpredict, to what looks like 12 to 14 inches total.

But even with the worst of the storm now hitting further north, were the extreme safety measures justified?

Read more...

How Much Success is Syriza Likely to Have in Ending Austerity?

While the election results in Greece have sent shockwaves through European technocratic elites and have rattled investors, it is not clear how successful Syriza will be in getting big enough changes implemented in Eurozone policies and its own bailout terms to end the humanitarian crisis, rather than just create the sort of bounce off the bottom growth that analysts like to depict as progress. Indeed, once you walk though the likely bargaining positions of the various parties, there is little reason to be optimistic on Syriza’s behalf.

Read more...

Media Demonization of Syriza: Pretending that Neoliberalism is Popular and Mainstream

We’re having two posts on the Greek elections tonight, since the media accounts are so slanted as to merit discussion. The notion that a democratically elected government would put broad social interest over continued, self-destructive sacrifices to financiers and their allies in European governments is so threatening that a large swathe of media outlets seem […]

Read more...

Ilargi: Brussels is a Bunch of Criminals

I was going to start out saying yesterday was the saddest day in Europe in 50 years, or something like that, because of the insane and completely nonsensical largesse the ECB permits itself to launch, aimed at once again saving a banking system, but which will not only not help the European people, it will make things even much worse than they already are. Which is also, lest we overlook that ‘detail’, entirely thanks to the ECB/EU/IMF Troika.

Read more...

Removing the Social Security Tax Cap Would Benefit Most Workers

As we and others have discussed at some length, the concern over Social Security funding is vastly overhyped. As Nicole Woo discusses in this Real News Network interview, one simple fix, that of eliminating the cap on who is subject to the tax, would solve most of the gap that is anticipated in long-term projections. That’s before we get to the MMT issue that “taxing” to fund any government activity is a political mechanism that is a holdover from the gold standard days, and not how government functions are funded operationally.

In fact, with more and more promised pensions being slashed, and investment returns flagging thanks to QE and ZIRP, the notion that ordinary people can save enough for their retirement is a chimera. Thus preserving and strengthening Social Security is more important than ever.

Read more...

Your Home Is Your Prison: How to Lock Down Your Neighborhood, Your Country, and You

This post describes a particularly ugly face of the ever-increasing levels of surveillance to which we are all being subjected, namely new tools for monitoring criminals, including those whose cases looked weak or politically motivated. But its not just that surveillance is being used as an alternative to prison. In 2012, two school districts in Houston were already requiring students to wear electronic tags. And as this article warns, pre-crime is coming too.

Read more...

The Failure of a Past Basic Income Guarantee, the Speenhamland System

The idea of a basic income guarantee is very popular with readers, more so that the notion of a job guarantee. Yet as we have mentioned in passing, this very sort of program was put in place on a large-scale basis in the past. Initially, it was very popular. However, in the long run it proved to be destructive to the recipients while tremendously beneficial to employers, who used the income support to further lower wages, thus increasing costs to the state and further reducing incentives to work. And when the system was dismantled, it was arguably the working poor, as opposed to the ones who had quit working altogether, who were hurt the most.

It is also intriguing to note that this historical precedent is likely to resemble a a contemporary version of a basic income guarantee.

Read more...

Je suis Juif: An American Jew in France on the Terrorist Attacks

This past summer my family and I moved to France, not far from Paris, for work. I’m an American Jew and heard the stories but didn’t worry much. Days after we arrived French Muslims rioted, chanting “Death to the Jews” and destroying Jewish buildings. OK – they’re worked up about Gaza and they’ll settle down I thought. My parents told me that 10,000 Jews had left France for Israel and I told them “well, with my arrival they’re only down 9,999.”

Read more...

Answering for America’s Madness

Yves here. This post by Ann Jones discusses the difficulty that Americans have in answering questions from foreigners about large swathes of our policies. I had enough trouble explaining (mind you, not defending) the Iraq War when I lived in Sydney from 2002 to 2004, when Americans were generally still well tolerated around the world. I can’t imagine what it is like now.

Some readers will no doubt beg to differ, but it appears that our supposed leaders are operating out of a mass delusion and trying (and for the moment succeeding) in imposing it on the rest of us.

Read more...

Happiness and Satisfaction Are Not Everything: Improving Wellbeing Indices

Yves here. I’m using this post as an object lesson in what is right and wrong with a lot of economics research to help readers look at research reports and academic studies more critically. That often happens with post VoxEU articles; they have some, or even a lot, of interesting data and analysis, but there’s often some nails-on-the-chalkboard remarks or a bias in how the authors have approached the topic. Readers, needless to say, generally pounce on these shortcomings.

Here, the authors take up a legitimate topic: are surveys on wellbeing asking the right questions?

Read more...

Hebdo Fallout: Greater Odds of Frexit as Marine Le Pen’s Star Rises

The odds of France leaving the Eurozone, or Frexit, have just gone from a tail risk to plausible thanks to the boost the Hedbo shootings have given to the leader of France’s far right party, the National Front, and its leader, Marine Le Pen. Opinion polls indicate that that she would win the first round of a presidential ballot were elections held now.

Read more...

Satyajit Das: The Art of Destructive Capital

In truth, art and money have never been far apart. The wealthy have always collected art. Joseph Henry Duveen, the legendary dealer who in the early twentieth century masterminded the sale of Old Masters to wealthy Americans with little knowledge of art, observed that: “Europe has plenty of art while America has plenty of money and large empty mansions and I bring them together.” Richard Rush in his 1961 book Art as an Investment doubted that “collectors have ever been unmindful of the investment value of art”.

But the market rather than the art itself is now the centre of this universe.

Read more...