61 Articles


1 month Ago

It’s like you’re not even looking at the charts

Published by marco on

The comic Explaining Capitalism to Aliens by Corey Mohler shows a top-hatted capitalist explaining our economy to two, much-taller, blue aliens with tentacles for arms and two extra tentacles extending from their ribcages. Their physiognomy isn’t relevant to the story, but that’s what they look like.

Alien: “Explain to us: how do you decide how to allocate resources, and who does what work, on Earth?”

Human: “So you see, on Earth we have a free market, so resources are efficiently allocated to meet the... [More]”

9 months Ago

The zero-risk society is a strawman

Published by marco on

I recently read the article Stop Trying To Create a Zero-Risk Society by Veronique de Rugy (Reason), which included the following infuriating citation.

“Yet, as economist Steve Horowitz recently wrote to me on Facebook, “The reality is that we can never achieve” a zero-risk society, and “the costs of trying to are enormous, in terms of both material resources and human freedom.””

Honestly, just fucking knock it off. Nobody wants a zero-risk society. We just want to maybe not have a high-risk society because all the fucking... [More]

Bubble Living

Published by marco on

The article ECB to accelerate supply of ultra-cheap money by Nick Beams (WSWS) describes the main reason the U.S.—and the world—economy doesn’t seem to have noticed any downside in the last year and a half, despite the most devastating pandemic in living memory.

“It seems that whatever the state of the economy, the response of central banks is the same: pour more money into the financial system, so that investors and speculators can continue to make vast profits on the basis of ultra-low interest rates.

“When... [More]”

10 months Ago

A Crisis of Confidence in Leadership

Published by marco on

The video below is an interesting and worthwhile financial, political, and COVID analysis that includes both Europe and the U.S.

If There’s No Fear of Inflation, Why is GOP Against More Stimulus? – Rana Foroohar and Mark Blyth (YouTube)

At 17:54, Rana Foroohar spoke about the difficulty of doing anything big because any of the people with enough free time and energy to actually move the needle on how our society works in any significant way have been conveniently captured in it because they are heavily invested in it. They would have to literally put a decent dent in their (relatively) ample... [More]

2 years Ago

Dean Baker breaks down Remdesivir

Published by marco on

The article A Gilead-Remdesivir Fix: The Ten Percent Solution by Dean Baker (Beat the Press) points out that it is absolutely not difficult to fix the so-called problem with remdesivir. It’s a short article, so I’ll just cite it in full, highlighting the most salient bits for those who need a tl;dr for a four-paragraph article.

“The Washington Post had an excellent piece documenting how the government put up most of the money for developing remdesivir, a drug that now offers the hope of being the first effective treatment... [More]”

A side-scrolling adventure with the super-rich

Published by marco on

The interactive side-scroller Wealth shown to scale by Matt Korostoff is an article that shows just how much money the 400 richest Americans (the .0001%) have—and what could be done with a relatively small fraction of it (e.g. use 6% to “refund all taxes for households earning under $80,000”).

Pro tip: Show the source of the page to read it without all of the scrolling.

You scroll horizontally along a nearly endlessly long page that discusses excessive wealth and the good it could do were it to be distributed.... [More]

Favorite economists

Published by marco on

I sometimes wonder what my younger self would think of what he’s become. I like to think that I’ve avoided a disappointed reaction, but it’s hard to say because I’ve always been a bit “judgey”. At the very least, there are several things I couldn’t have predicted. One is that I actually have a list of favorite economists. 20-year-old me couldn’t have imagined that in a million years.

In no particular order,

Dean Baker
He’s the founder of CEPR, the voice of sanity and national treasure of... [More]

Surviving in a failed state

Published by marco on

The article How to Survive End Times by Ted Rall (CounterPunch) discusses what kind of people are needed once society collapses or changes significantly, based on experience in Afghanistan.

“You make yourself useful in a failed state exactly the opposite of how you do in ours. In the United States in 2020, it pays to have excellent skills in one or two areas, to be the best at what you do in your specialty. Not in Afghanistan in 2000. Dangerous places work best for people who are renaissance men and women, those with a... [More]”

The Rich are not Better

Published by marco on

The article Mark Zuckerberg is a Rich Jerk by Dean Baker (Beat the Press) takes issue with the media’s love affair with plumbing the depths of billionaires’ minds.[1]

“It is bizarre that so many people look to the country’s billionaires to tell us how the world should be constructed or think that these people have any great insight into such matters. Being a billionaire means that you were successful at getting very rich. There is no reason to believe that billionaires have any more insight into major policy issues than... [More]”

The Real Reason

Published by marco on

The article America’s largest milk producer files for bankruptcy (CNN) spends a few useless paragraphs discussing America’s growing predilection for “milk alternatives” before finishing with the following paragraph:

“That’s not the only problem Dean Foods has faced. Walmart (WMT), which was one of Dean Food’s biggest customers, dropped them last year after building its own dairy plant.”

So, oat-milk sales being up is the lede and the world’s largest company having dropped Dean as a vendor is just an... [More]

3 years Ago

Financing a modern government (French Edition)

Published by marco on

I spotted the following citation in Notre Dame Cathedral will never be the same, but it can be rebuilt by Kiona N. Smith (Ars Technica):

“In a statement, French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron vowed to the rebuild the cathedral, beginning with a national donation program to raise funds for the effort.”

Did Macron just suggest using GoFundMe to fund the rebuilding of Notre Dame? Is France not collecting taxes anymore?

Roubini on Cryptocurrencies and Blockchain

Published by marco on

The following citations are from an interesting talk/paper, Testimony for the Hearing of the US Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Community Affairs On “Exploring the Cryptocurrency and Blockchain Ecosystem” by Nouriel Roubini in October 2018 (U.S. Senate Banking Committee) (sub-titled: Crypto is the Mother of All Scams and (Now Busted) Bubbles While Blockchain Is The Most Over-Hyped Technology Ever, No Better than a Spreadsheet/Database).

He had good foresight in 2007, but I’m surprised to see how confident he is about the current system in that... [More]

Dean Baker tries, once more, to explain things

Published by marco on

Poor Dean Baker often writes about the same problems—topics that he’s discussed in detail and for which he’s provided solutions in his book Rigged: How Globalization and the Rules of the Modern Economy Were Structured to Make the Rich Richer. He’s a national treasure.

Once more, though, from the top. His brief post Thomas Friedman Shows Us Why Democracy is Facing Huge Problems by Dean Baker (CEPR) makes the following points (all emphases added).[1]


“Bill Gates is not incredibly rich because of rapid... [More]”

5 years Ago

Mark Blyth on the Jimmy Dore show

Published by marco on

I last wrote about Mark Blyth about two months ago in the article Mark Blyth on Global Trumpism. I recently saw another interview with him on the Jimmy Dore show that I can recommend watching.

If you’ve watched Blythe before, he doesn’t cover a lot of new ground, but he does have a wonderful way with words and for getting right to the point. Often he can shut down an entire line of reasoning with a single, giant point that makes other arguments pale into insignificance.

The interview is split... [More]

The TPP is dead

Published by marco on

The article US pulls out of Trans-Pacific Partnership by David Kravets (Ars Technica) isn’t very long or filled with detail, but it looks like the TPP is dead. Trump made good on the one promise of his that I actually approved of.

The TPP was a deal negotiated in secret, encompassed over 2000 pages and was written (and probably read) almost exclusively by lobbyists for giant multinationals and patent/copyright holders. The former were hoping to be able to extract rent from signers that passed laws that could be shown to... [More]

Comparies National Economies

Published by marco on

I just read/scanned through the article Living in Switzerland ruined me for America and its lousy work culture. The article is quite accurate and well-written in the material that it addresses. The reaction at Reddit was more uninformed than usual. My notes below.

  • Taxes: Federal and even cantonal (state) taxes are lower in Switzerland. As she mentioned, this is partially due to there being no “capital-gains loophole” (dividends are taxed at a high rate) but also because there are fewer... [More]

Energy-consumption by type in the U.S.

Published by marco on

This is a sobering graphic for those who’ve been swayed by the propaganda that America is “just around the corner” from a 100% alternative—non–fossil-fuel—economy.

 Energy consumption in the US (1776 – 2015) (EIA)

You can see that coal consumption is way down, but natural-gas consumption is way up. Home-grown natural-gas consumption is declining again (rapidly, despite more propaganda) but imports will likely continue. Along with natural gas, other renewables have also replaced some of the coal, but not nearly as much. Just as much as... [More]

7 years Ago

Grooveshark: A lesson in why we can’t have nice things

Published by marco on

Grooveshark is no more.

Why should we lament this? They were, after all, a company that delivered music without heeding copyrights and without recompensing the artists that wrote the music. Once you read more about their business model, one could only say that they operated in a gray area if one squinted really hard. Once you learned how they delivered what they delivered, you were amazed that they lasted as long as they did.

But let’s take a step back and examine what else they provided and... [More]

Some clarity on Greek debt

Published by marco on

As with so many other macroeconomic topics, Dean Baker at CEPR is a good source of information on this one as well. There is a lot of FUD about Greek debt:

  • That it will bankrupt Europe (whatever happens to the EU, they’re doing it to themselves),
  • That Europe continues to pay out (no payments for over a year now)
  • That the Greeks are trying to get out of paying (they’re actually trying to pay interest at a slower rate).

Let’s take a look at some details below.

Interest Rates are too low

... [More]

On Argentine Debt

Published by marco on

The very short post ”Holdouts” On Argentine Bonds, Did Not Own the Bonds at Time of Default by Dean Baker (CEPR) corrects the New York Times on their chronic mischaracterization of the Argentine default situation that drags on long after the default actually occurred (in 2001).

The NYT likes to make us think that the battle is between a noble group of American investors which generously invested in Argentina, only to be robbed a country with no work ethic and a casual willingness to declare default rather than pay... [More]

John Oliver on the estate tax

Published by marco on

John Oliver’s new show on HBO is what some of us have always wanted the Daily Show to be. Oliver doesn’t self-censor, he doesn’t do pandering interviews and he does really, really in-depth segments. He did one recently on inequality.

“The federal estate tax does not apply to 99.4% of all farm estates. It also doesn’t apply to 99.86% of anyone’s estate. Basically, if you are not comfortable calling your pile of shit an “estate”, the estate tax probably doesn’t fucking apply to you.”

Watch the... [More]

8 years Ago

Riding the wave

Published by marco on

When we talk about getting real about the Internet economy, we talk about acknowledging that there is real value there. And when we talk about valuation, we think we are talking about some measure of that—real value. The word “value” is built right into the word, so that must be what it means, right?

But what do we mean when we say “real value”? What kind of value or values? And, more importantly, value to whom? Is there only positive value? Or is there a negative component? Which part is... [More]

WEF (World Economic Forum) Panel

Published by marco on

The panel from the World Economic Forum on Saturday ended at 16:45 GMT+1. SRF Info was streaming it live in Switzerland in English and I caught the tail end of one of the panels. The discussion included Schäuble from Germany, Christine LaGarde (president of the IMF) and the presidents of the banks of Japan, England (who seems to be American?) and India as well as the president of Blackrock (an investment company) and was moderated by Martin Wolf of the Financial Times.

They discussed the... [More]

The Spirit of Christmas

Published by marco on

The article Spend, don’t Mend by George Monbiot sums up the season as follows,

“Have people become so immune to fellow feeling that they are prepared to spend £46 on a jar for dog treats or £6.50 a bang on personalised crackers, rather than give the money to a better cause?(7) Or is this the Western world’s potlatch, spending ridiculous sums on conspicuously useless gifts to enhance our social status? […]

“To service this peculiar form of mental illness, we must wear down the knap of the Earth, ream the... [More]

Hidden subsidies in supposedly über-modern business models

Published by marco on

In order to provide a service, a company must generate enough revenue to cover costs. Rent has to be covered, utility bills must be paid and employees must get their salaries. Let’s assume that the main goal of the business is actually not to make the owners rich, but rather to provide the service and also provide employment. This is what we are trained to think of when we think of a small business.

Another goal of our economy in general is growth. When a company grows, it can provide its... [More]

Pharmaceutical patents

Published by marco on

The article Ross Douthat: Conservative Who’s Scared of a Free Market in Health Care by Dean Baker (Beat the Press) states the case with pharmaceutical patents very clearly, succinctly explaining how purported libertarian and small-government conservatives sometimes argue for government regulation. This case is a perfect example of why it’s OK to ignore the opinions of people like Douthat: they have shown time and again that they are either (A) corrupt, in it for themselves and their friends or (B) ignorant and possibly... [More]

Branches of economics, summarized

Published by marco on

This diagram of the branches of economics by Zach Weiner (SMBC) sums it up very nicely.

 SMBC 2013-09-19

9 years Ago

Switzerland restrains managerial remuneration

Published by marco on

The Swiss voted overwhelmingly to include a provision in their constitution to, as the campaign stated, “stop the ripoff”. The exact text (in German) can be found at Eidgenössische Volksinitiative gegen die Abzockerei. Rather than try to reformulate the result in a hyperbolic way, I’ll perform the service of just translating the relatively clear amendment to the Swiss constitution.

The letter of the law

See the link above for the full text; I include the original German for the parts I think... [More]

Dean Baker explains wealth

Published by marco on

The article Time to Bury Pew Report on Wealth by Age Group by Dean Baker (CEPR) hits the nail on the head. Pew put together a report a few years ago on the wealth of various age groups in the U.S. This report has since been misused by many journalists to show that the wealthy elderly are exacting inter-generational warfare on the young. The report stated that “the median household over the age of 65 had $170,500 in net worth [while] households under age 35 had [a] median net worth [of] just $3,700”.

Though I’m going... [More]

10 years Ago

Rich vs. Poor

Published by marco on

I recently received a request to post an info-graphic (included below) detailing the results of a recent study published by UC Berkeley, called Higher social class predicts increased unethical behavior by Paul K. Piff, Daniel M. Stancatoa, Stéphane Côté, Rodolfo Mendoza-Denton, and Dacher Keltner (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences). The original infographic is hosted at a site called Accounting Degree Online, for some strange reason. At any rate, the findings are kind of interesting.

The URL to the graphic includes the text “Rich people are unethical” but it could more accurately be called “Rich people are unethical (so are... [More]