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Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

– Stephen Hawking discusses the urgent need to address inequality and environmental destruction as people are both more fearful for their futures, and more aware of what’s being taken away from them: (T)he lives of the richest people in the most prosperous parts of the world are agonisingly visible . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

– Lana Payne comments on the importance of the labour movement in ensuring that economic growth translates into benefits for workers: The findings of a study released this month by the Canadian Centre for Study of Living Standards, an Ottawa-based think-tank, reinforces why there is a “pervasive sense among . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Afternoon Links

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your Monday reading.

– Paul Krugman writes about the dangers of Donald Trump’s crony capitalist infrastructure plan. And Tom Parkin warns us that Justin Trudeau’s Canadian equivalent is headed toward exactly the same results: A private infrastructure bank means paying more for financing. It means getting less infrastructure. Fewer construction jobs. Less . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

– Thomas Piketty discusses our choice between developing models of global trade which actually produce positive results for people, or fueling the fire of Trump-style demogoguery: The main lesson for Europe and the world is clear: as a matter of urgency, globalization must be fundamentally re-oriented. The main challenges . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Afternoon Links

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Afternoon Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

– Arancha González Laya distinguishes between international trade and corporatism – arguing that we should be looking to ensure people benefit from the former by reining in the latter: Making trade more inclusive requires action on three broad policy fronts: trade rules, domestic social protection, and international cooperation to . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Afternoon Links

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Afternoon Links

Assorted content to end your week.

– Anthony Hilton writes that stronger protections for workers tend to increase productivity. And Fiona McQuarrie makes clear that we don’t have to settle for an economy where workers face constant fear and insecurity as a result of precarious work: (J)ob churn and precarious employment incur other costs. High . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Friday Afternoon Links

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

– John McDonnell outlines a progressive alternative to neoliberal economic policy: The increasing automation of jobs, reduced dependence on carbon fuels, artificial intelligence and the so-called gig economy have provoked understandable anger among many workers whose jobs are under threat. More generally, concerns about the effect on the labour market are . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

– Dani Rodrik discusses the growing public opposition to new corporate-dominated trade deals based on the lessons we’ve learned from previous ones: Instead of decrying people’s stupidity and ignorance in rejecting trade deals, we should try to understand why such deals lost legitimacy in the first place. I’d . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

– Scott Sinclair and Stuart Trew applaud Wallonia’s principled stance against the CETA. And Joseph Stiglitz discusses the need to set up social and economic systems which actually serve the public good, rather than favouring corporate interests: Where the trade agreements failed, it was not because the US was . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

– Mainly Macro offers a useful definition of neoliberalism, while highlighting its relationship to austerity. And Ed Finn writes that we shouldn’t be too quick to presume neoliberalism is going to disappear just because it’s proven to be harmful in practice – and that it will take a massive . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

– Peter Rossman explains why the CETA falls far short of the mark in accounting for anybody’s interests other than those of big business. And Dani Rodrik discusses the dangers of laissez-faire fundamentalism, particularly to the extent it threatens to undermine the foundation of a functional society: (T)he . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Most! Progressive! Ever!

Shorter Bill Morneau: I take great pride in the fact that other elites are starting to come around to my party’s “make a show of dropping at least a few crumbs for the plebes” philosophy.

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

– Ellen Gould comments on how the CETA and other trade deals constrain democratic governance – and the fact that corporate bigwigs are threatening any government which considers giving effect to popular opposition doesn’t exactly provide any comfort. Meanwhile, Scott Sinclair points out the dangerous effects of the . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Assorted content to start your week.

– Bruce Johnstone notes that rather than further attacking public services which have already been under siege throughout his stay in office, Brad Wall and his government should be looking to question Saskatchewan’s inexplicable giveaways to businesses: Well, if Doherty is looking for some “low-hanging fruit” to make our . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

– Jim Stanford writes about the obvious problems with globalization as it’s currently structured – and the need to meaningfully take into account the public interest before anybody other than the investor class can be expected to participate in the process: The reality is that hundreds of millions of . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

– Dani Rodrik suggests that instead of engaging in extended hand-wringing over the collapse of public interest in corporate trade deals, we should instead be working on strengthening domestic social contracts: The frustrations of the middle and lower classes today are rooted in the perception that political elites have . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Wednesday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

– David Boyle discusses how the principle of free trade – once intended to empower consumers against monopolies – is instead being used to lock in corporate control: (T)he original idea of free trade was not a simple licence to do whatever you wanted, if you were rich . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

– Larry Elliott writes that the public is rightly frustrated with an economic model designed to shift money to those who already have the most – and that progressive parties in particular need to offer a meaningful alternative: The belief on the left was that 2008 sounded the death . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Monday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

Assorted content for your Sunday reading.

– Tim Harford discusses how insurance and other industries are built on exploiting people who are risk-averse due to the inability to absorb substantial costs as “money pumps” for those who have more than they need:

(L)et’s step back and ask ourselves what insurance is for. Classical economics has an answer: people are risk-averse, which means that they will pay good money to reduce the variability of outcomes they face. If home insurance guards against the loss of a million pounds when my house burns down, I’m happy to buy the insurance even though the insurance company expects to make a profit from it.

But this risk aversion emerges from the fact that money is worth more to poor people than to rich people. Gaining a million pounds would make me rich but losing a million pounds would make me poor. I should not gamble a million pounds on the toss of a coin, because the million pounds I might lose is more precious to me than the million pounds I might gain.

As so often with classical economics, this is an excellent description of how we should behave. It is not such an excellent description of how we actually do behave. Risk aversion can only explain why we insure large risks. It cannot explain why we insure small ones. 

A money pump is a person whose irrationalities can be systematically exploited for financial gain. The simplest money pump is a person who prefers an apple to a doughnut, prefers a doughnut to a chocolate bar, and prefers a chocolate bar to an apple. Just offer them an apple in exchange for their doughnut plus a penny. They will accept. Then offer them a chocolate bar for their apple plus a penny. Then offer them a doughnut for their chocolate bar plus a penny. They end up with their original doughnut and are three pence poorer. Repeat for ever.

Money-pump arguments are sometimes deployed to object that people cannot be irrational, otherwise they would be bankrupted by money pumping. But economists are increasingly coming to realise that, instead, we should be looking for money pumping in action.

Given our anxiety about small risks, what would the money pumping look like? It would be an insurance policy focused on the narrowest possible slice of risk. It would be sold alongside another product or service, often at the last moment. It would be marketed by creating anxiety and then offering the product to make the anxiety go away. In short, it would look like the collision damage waiver, the extended warranty, and PPI. These bespoke slices of insurance are among the largest money-pumping projects in the modern economy. No wonder the banks abandoned their principles to join in.

– Jared Bernstein and Lori Wallach highlight (PDF) the need for an international trade regime which serves the public interest, not only the greed of the people who already have the most. And Yves Smith theorizes that the public backlash against corporate-centered trade deals may lead both to changes in how international trade is managed, and the identity of the countries at the forefront of developing the standards to be pursued.

– Needless to say, the Libs’ devotion to the current trade model figures to exclude Canada from that group for the foreseeable future. And the Alberta Federation of Labour laments the Libs’ determination to exploit foreign labour at the expense of both easily-abused temporary workers, and the Canadians who would otherwise fill the positions.

– Derek Thompson makes the case for a long-overdue round of trust-busting to reduce corporate power over innovation and economic development.

– Finally, Ed Finn writes that our health system should focus far more on maintaining wellness rather than responding only once an illness develops. . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

– Scott Sinclair, Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood and Stuart Trew study the contents of the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement. Sinclair and Trew also highlight why Canadian progressives should oppose the deal, while Howard Mann notes that the same criticisms, including a gross transfer of power to the corporate sector and the absence of any concern for developmental and environmental issues, apply to all of the new generation of corporate rights agreements. But the Council of Canadians notes that not only are the Trudeau Libs pushing ahead with every single trade agreement currently on the table, they’re also trying to lay the groundwork for a similar deal with China – even if it comes with both a blind eye to human rights violations, and an obligation to approve a tar sands pipeline.

– Bill McKibben examines how new climate data shows that we need a nearly immediate transition away from dirty energy in order to meet the Paris conference commitment to rein in global warming. And Seth Klein and Shannon Daub call out the new form of climate denialism – which pays lip service to the science of climate change, but attempts to detach it from any policy steps to improve matters.

– Kate Pickett and Richard Wilkinson argue that there’s no reason to keep hewing to neoliberal orthodoxy when decades of evidence show how it exacerbates inequality and harms health:

Even before the 2008 global financial crisis, neoliberalism was causing what the University of Durham’s Ted Schrecker and Clare Bambra have called “neoliberal epidemics.” As Schrecker and Bambra and many others have shown, income inequality has profoundly damaging and far-reaching effects on everything from trust and social cohesion to rates of violent crime and imprisonment, educational achievement, and social mobility. Inequality seems to worsen health outcomes, reduce life expectancy, boost rates of mental illness and obesity, and even increase the prevalence of HIV.
Deep income inequality means that society is organized as a wealth-based hierarchy. Such a system confers economic as well as political power to those at the top and contributes to a sense of powerlessness for the rest of the population. Ultimately, this causes problems not only for the poor, but for the affluent as well. 
Careful analysis of statistical data debunked the idea that stressed executives are at a higher risk for heart attacks. Now, it has debunked the 1980s myth that “greed is good,” and has revealed the extensive damage inequality causes. It was one thing to believe these myths decades ago, but when experience and all the available evidence show them to be mistaken, it is time to make a change. 
“Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error,” said the Roman philosopher Cicero. Now that we know how inequality harms the health of societies, individuals, and economies, reducing it should be our top priority. Anyone advocating policies that increase inequality and threaten the wellbeing of our societies is taking us for fools.
– And Ashley Quan points out how a basic income could alleviate many of the harms caused by precarious financial situations.

– Finally, Thomas Walkom rightly notes that a federal crackdown on extra-billing under the Canada Health Act is long overdue. . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: New column day

Here, examining how Chris Hamby’s brilliant reports on the effect of investor-state dispute settlement terms in past trade agreements should inform our choices in discussing new ones. For further reading…- Haley Edwards offers another worthwhile look… . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: New column day

Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

– Arthur Neslen points out how new trade agreements figure to make it impossible for governments to meet their environmental commitments. And Corporate Europe Observatory highlights how the CETA will give investors the ability to dictate public policy.

– The Economist discusses the effect of high executive compensation in the U.S., and finds that corporations that shovel exceptionally large amounts of pay to their CEO get sub-par returns for their money.

– Penney Kome writes that the sugar industry’s work to mislead the public about its own health represents just one more example of the dangers of presuming that an undiluted profit motive is anything but antithetical to the public interest.

– On the bright side, Giles Parkinson notes that on a level playing field, solar power has become more affordable than any alternative no matter how dirty.

– Finally, Owen Jones discusses how a strong progressive movement needs to respond to being unfairly dismissed and derided by the corporate media:

A defeatist attitude – and a condescending one, too – says that the media programme people with what to think, reducing the electorate to Murdoch-brainwashed zombies. But a clever approach can neutralise media hostility. Take Sadiq Khan: he was subjected to one of the most vicious political campaigns in postwar Britain, portrayed by the press – including London’s dominant newspaper, the Evening Standard – as the pawn of Islamist fundamentalist extremists. He could have bellowed his frustration every single day, and would have been more than entitled to do so. But he didn’t. He focused on a positive, optimistic message, and not only won the election – he had glowing personal ratings, too.

Momentum, too, presented a masterclass last weekend in dealing with hostile media. Rather than taking aggressive swipes at the media, it framed a response to Dispatches before it was even aired. It projected disappointment rather than fury; it gave a platform to Momentum activists who contrasted sharply with the media portrayal; it was witty; and it showcased what it actually did, using the attack as an opportunity to get its own message across. And there is a lesson there. The left is bitterly accustomed to living with almost farcically hostile media in a country where the press is as much a sophisticated political lobbyist as a means of information. A natural response is to become grouchy, to shake fists angrily, or simply boycott the media altogether. It’s an approach that fires up some of the most dedicated leftwing activists, but it’s a strategic mistake. And both Khan and Momentum show the left can rebut media hostility – and even thrive.

. . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Tuesday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Afternoon Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

– Andrew Jackson discusses how the rise of right-wing, prejudiced populism can be traced to the failures of global corporate governance. And Dani Rodrik argues that it’s time to develop an international political system to facilitate – rather than overriding – democratic action:

Some simple principles would reorient us in the right direction. First, there is no single way to prosperity. Countries make their own choices about the institutions that suit them best. Some, like Britain, may tolerate, say, greater inequality and financial instability in return for higher growth and more financial innovation. They will opt for lower taxes on capital and more freewheeling financial systems. Others, like Continental European nations, will go for greater equity and financial conservatism. International firms will complain that differences in rules and regulations raise the costs of doing business across borders, but their claims must be traded off against the benefits of diversity.
Second, countries have the right to protect their institutional arrangements and safeguard the integrity of their regulations. Financial regulations or labor protections can be circumvented and undermined by moving operations to foreign countries with considerably lower standards. Countries should be able to prevent such “regulatory arbitrage” by placing restrictions on cross-border transactions — just as they can keep out toys or agricultural products that do not meet domestic health standards.
 
Third, the purpose of international economic negotiations should be to increase domestic policy autonomy, while being mindful of the possible harm to trade partners. The world’s trade regime is driven by a mercantilist logic: You lower your barriers in return for my lowering mine. But lack of openness is no longer the binding constraint on the world economy; lack of democratic legitimacy is.

It is time to embrace a different logic, emphasizing the value of policy autonomy. Poor and rich countries alike need greater space for pursuing their objectives. The former need to restructure their economies and promote new industries, and the latter must address domestic concerns over inequality and distributive justice.

– William Lazonick and Matt Hopkins note that already-appalling estimates of the gap between CEOs and other workers may be severely underestimating the problem. And Iglika Ivanova laments British Columbia’s woefully insufficient changes to its minimum wage which will keep large numbers of workers in poverty.

– In one positive development for corporate accountability, Telesur reports that the International Criminal Court is now willing to take jurisdiction over land grabbing, environmental destruction and other corporate crime.

– Harry Stein writes that there are significant economic and social gains to be achieved by better funding social infrastructure.

– Finally, Jeremy Nuttall interviews Robert Fox, the NDP’s new national director, on the plan to building a more activist party – both in the sense of better engaging with existing activists, and developing a culture of ongoing action. And Robin Sears offers a long-term path for the NDP to once again lead Canada toward progressive policies. . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Sunday Afternoon Links

Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

– Joseph Stiglitz discusses how entrenched inequality and unearned income hurt the economy for everybody:

We used to think of there being a trade-off: we could achieve more equality, but only at the expense of overall economic performance. It is now clear that, given the extremes of inequality being reached in many rich countries and the manner in which they have been generated, greater equality and improved economic performance are complements.

(A) key factor underlying the current economic difficulties of rich countries is growing inequality. We need to focus not on what is happening on average— as GDP leads us to do— but on how the economy is performing for the typical citizen, reflected for instance in median disposable income. People care about health, fairness and security, and yet GDP statistics do not reflect their decline. Once these and other aspects of societal well-being are taken into account, recent performance in rich countries looks much worse.

The economic policies required to change this are not difficult to identify. We need more investment in public goods; better corporate governance, antitrust and anti-discrimination laws; a better regulated financial system; stronger workers’ rights; and more progressive tax and transfer policies. By ‘rewriting the rules’ governing the market economy in these ways, it is possible to achieve greater equality in both the pre- and post-tax and transfer distribution of income, and thereby stronger economic performance.

– David Macdonald discusses Canada’s growing consumer debt levels, and notes that matters figure to get worse before they get better. And the CP reports on Canada’s high gender wage gap as another area where we’re lagging even on an international scene where there’s far more work to be done.

– Hadrian Mertins-Kirkwood examines the economic fallout we could expect from the CETA, while the Canadian Labour Congress suggests a few ways to minimize the damage. But Murray Dobbin asks why we’re wasting any time on corporate power agreements when they’ve so thoroughly failed to live up to any promises to the public.

– Juha Kaakinen writes about the success of Housing First in alleviating homelessness in Finland. And Gary Bloch and John Silver point out how encouraging people living in poverty to file tax returns (and thus receive available benefits) can produce positive outcomes all around.

– Finally, PressProgress discusses Wayne Smith’s resignation as Chief Statistician of Statistics Canada due to a lack of meaningful change from the Cons’ attempts to politicize data collection and management. . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Saturday Morning Links

Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

– Henning Meyer interviews Tony Atkinson about the readily-available options to combat inequality – with the first step being to make sure people actually have a voice in the decisions which define how wealth and power are allocated:

So, if you dive into the potential solutions you seem to suggest institutional changes. You mentioned that public policy should aim at a proper balance of power amongst stakeholders; what exactly do you mean by this?

Well I think I should say first of all that my aim in writing the book was to try and dispel the sort of sense of inevitability about high inequality and therefore I was putting forward various ways of seeking to understand why it comes about and therefore how we can moderate it. And I think one of the things that has certainly happened is that institutions, like for example corporate institutions, companies, which used to have a broader view of their responsibilities, that they recognised that they had a responsibility in addition to that to their shareholders – also to their workers and to their consumers and their customers.

And I think it’s this broader notion of the social obligations of institutions and of course of individuals as well that we have responsibilities beyond both our own personal economic gains and losses. So I think that it’s part of a reaction that I have had to what seems to be a narrowing to a very much individual based self-interest which has come to emerge in the last two or three decades.

Okay, and then new ideas like Michael Porter’s shared value capitalism, they try to sort of, not revive the old dichotomy between shareholder and stakeholder models but try to align public and private interest in addressing some of the most pressing social and economic needs. Could that be one way of addressing these considerations?

Yes, I think in a sense part of the issues arise because we had in the post-war period some kind of balance of power between on the one side employers and the other side often trade unions or workers’ representatives. And that of course has shifted in quite a number of countries as a result of a number of things including, for example, the effect of privatisation resulting in reducing the power of trade unions to influence the behaviour of those institutions. So, I think we’ve seen a shift of power definitely away from workers towards capital, those who run firms.

So I think a number of proposals were designed to try and at least make sure that those interests of workers and indeed consumers should be represented. And a good example is provided by the negotiations with regard to trade agreements which seem to involve only one side as it were of that equation.

– And Van Jones writes that the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade deals are set up to block action against climate change.

– CUPE points out the leakage of massive amounts of revenue to tax havens and avoidance as a crucial factor in austerity politics. And Craig Wong reports on the latest increase in Canadian consumer debt as people borrow to try to make up for the lack of advancement in wages.

– Susan Ochs discusses Wells Fargo’s widespread fraud as yet another example of workers and consumers being punished for the misdeeds of high-ranking executives.

– Alia Dharssi continues her reporting on migrant workers in Canada by highlighting how recruitment agencies exploit workers who can’t stand up for themselves. And Chris Buckley argues that labour and employment laws in general need to be updated, particularly to protect people stuck with precarious work.

– Finally, APTN reports on the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal’s latest order requiring the federal government to stop discriminating against First Nations children – though the fact that two previous orders haven’t led to the government complying signals that the Libs’ in following through may be rather less than advertised. . . . → Read More: Accidental Deliberations: Friday Morning Links