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Politics and its Discontents: The Climate Change Debate Lives On

The science on the theory of climate change is not settled. There is a powerful, scientific consensus that anthropogenic or man-made climate change is real, here now and worsening. There is a powerful, scientific consensus that man-made climate change is already triggering natural feedback mechanisms that eventually can become “tipping points” beyond which we will have runaway global warming. Runaway as in all the king’s horses and all the king’s men won’t be able to stop it.

For all of that, the science isn’t settled. That much is obvious from the tsunami of research studies that keep pouring in from (Read more…)

Political Eh-conomy: The outsize (un)importance of the tarsands

It’s easy to overestimate the importance of the tar sands to the Canadian economy. Tar sands and their pipelines are after all hailed by the ruling Conservatives, sections of the business press and the ever-present oil lobby as this young century’s “nation-building” project. Yet, a survey recently making the rounds highlights the relative unimportance of the tar sands to Canada’s overall economy: while most Canadians overestimate the importance of the tar sands and 41% are guess that the tar sands account for 12 %to 48% of Canada’s GDP, the reality is that they directly contribute a mere 2% to our (Read more…)

Parchment in the Fire: EU officials plotted IMF attack to bring rebellious Italy to its knees – Telegraph Blogs

EU officials plotted IMF attack to bring rebellious Italy to its knees – Telegraph Blogs.

The revelations about EMU skulduggery are coming thick and fast. Tim Geithner recounts in his book Stress Test: Reflections on Financial Crises just how far the EU elites are willing to go to save the euro, even if it means toppling elected leaders and eviscerating Europe’s sovereign parliaments.

Filed under: Austerity, Crisis, Democracy, Europe Tagged: Democracy, Eurozone Crisis, Italy, neoliberalism

Melissa Fong: The BC education system is broken

I can’t even imagine what it would have been like to go to a school where there wasn’t a regular community of teachers who knew each other and watched me […]

Parchment in the Fire: Banks save over €40 billion in capital thanks to government decree | In English | EL PAÍS

http://elpais.com/elpais/2014/04/24/inenglish/1398330641_511126.html

Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: Eurozone Crisis, finance, neoliberalism, Spain

Parchment in the Fire: IMF Urges Redistribution To Tackle Growing Inequality

As usual, on the rare occasion that the IMF actually understands the destructive nature of austerity policies, it is too little too late.

IMF Urges Redistribution To Tackle Growing Inequality.

Washington – The International Monetary Fund (IMF) is wading strongly into the global debate over the impact of growing income inequality, offering a series of controversial findings that push back on long-held economic orthodoxy – of which the fund itself has long been a key proponent.

The IMF, arguably the world’s premiere financial institution, is stating unequivocally that income inequality “tends to reduce the pace and durability” of economic growth. (Read more…)

Parchment in the Fire: Tough austerity measures in Greece leave nearly a million people with no access to healthcare, leading to soaring infant mortality, HIV infection and suicide – Europe – World – The Independent

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/tough-austerity-measures-in-greece-leave-nearly-a-million-people-with-no-access-to-healthcare-leading-to-soaring-infant-mortality-hiv-infection-and-suicide-9142274.html

Filed under: Austerity, Greece, inequality, Neoliberalism Tagged: Austerity, crisis, Greece, neoliberalism

Parchment in the Fire: The New Wave of Financial Instability

The New Wave of Financial Instability

by MIKE WHITNEY

Global stocks were hammered on Friday for a second straight day on news of a slowdown in China and turbulence in emerging markets. The Dow Jones Industrials suffered its worse drubbing in more than two years, tumbling 318 points on Friday to end a 490 point two-day rout. Emerging markets currencies were whipsawed by capital flight as foreign investors fled to the safety of U.S. Treasuries. Turkey’s lira and the Argentine peso were particularly hard hit setting record lows in the 48 hour period. The scaling back of the Fed’s (Read more…)

Political Eh-conomy: QE: Furthering the habit of privatizing gains and socializing losses

“Privatizing gains and socializing losses” could be the motto for the neoliberal era. Alongside this and “there is no alternative”, few slogans better capture the ideology that has been so successfully diffused throughout the world over the past several decades.

Five years after latest financial crisis, this motto rings true as ever. To say that the losses stemming from the crisis were large is a heroic understatement; indeed, not only were they humongous, their exact size remains a tad fuzzy. Meanwhile, across the world in the aftermath of the crisis, stock markets have rebounded, wealth and income inequalities have grown (Read more…)

Politics and its Discontents: Were This The Best Of All Possible Worlds…

Were I of Dr. Pangloss’ rosy outlook and believed that this is the best of all possible worlds, I might have some sympathy for people like Industry Minister James Moore who, as most will probably have heard, recently opined that it is not his job to feed his neighbour’s child, an inapt remark for which he subsequently apologized.

He did add, at the time of his original offending remarks, that “We’ve neven been wealthier as a country than we are right now. Never been wealthier,” and boasted of his government’s job-creation program.

And therein lies the problem. Mr. Moore and (Read more…)

Political Eh-conomy: The in-and-out trick: Thoughts on Canada Post, CPP and your child’s breakfast

The past few days have not been great for public services in Canada. Canada Post will be phasing out home delivery of mail. Expansion of the Canada Pension Plan was scuttled at the finance ministers’ meeting. In the grand scheme of things, however, these are not extreme cutbacks. It’s not as if Canada Post is to be dismantled completely or our public pension fund to run completely dry. This government has long brought us death by a thousand paper cuts and those from the past days are just a continuation of the strategy.

There is a particular common thread that (Read more…)

Parchment in the Fire: NAFTA at 20: State of the North American Worker

Twenty years since its passage, NAFTA has displaced workers on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, depressed wages, weakened unions, and set the terms of the neoliberal global economy.

By Jeff Faux, December 13, 2013.

Foreign Policy In Focus is partnering with Mexico’s La Jornada del campo magazine, where an earlier version of this commentary appeared, to publish a series of pieces examining the impacts of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) 20 years since its implementation. This is the first in the series.

The North American Free Trade Agreement, or NAFTA, was the door through (Read more…)

Parchment in the Fire: Americanized Labor Policy Is Spreading in Europe – NYTimes.com

Americanized Labor Policy Is Spreading in Europe – NYTimes.com.

While most of the debate over Europe’s response to the financial crisis has focused on the budget austerity enveloping the Continent, the comparatively unheralded erosion of worker protection is likely to have at least as big and lasting an impact on Europe’s social contract.

Filed under: Austerity, Europe, Exploitation, Labour, Neoliberalism Tagged: Collective bargaining, European Union, Labour law, labour relations

Parchment in the Fire: The marketisation of our universities: Economic criteria get precedence over what’s good in human terms | British Politics and Policy at LSE

The marketisation of our universities: Economic criteria get precedence over what’s good in human terms | British Politics and Policy at LSE.

Business criteria, not education or the public good, drive what marketised universities do, writes Luke Martell. Universities are restructuring for the new era, ploughing money into marketing and glitzy buildings, designed to appeal to applicants as much as function for those that use them. It’s a revolution in what the university’s about, and a counter-revolution is needed.

In 2010 the UK government announced 100 percent cuts to the funding of most teaching at universities. To fill the gap, students’ contributions (Read more…)

Parchment in the Fire: Austerity and Human Rights

The Council of Europe Commission for Human Rights has published a report documenting the various ways in which austerity is negatively impacting on human rights across Europe. I have copied the summary of the report below:

Europeans are living through the deepest economic recession since the Second World War. What began as a meltdown of the global financial systemin 2008 has been transformed into a new political reality of austerity which threatens over six decades of social solidarity and expanding human rightsprotection across Council of Europe member states. The initial government responses to the economic crisis were characterised by unprecedented (Read more…)

Parchment in the Fire: George Osborne’s Economic Policy: More Poverty, Worse Public Servies

Check out @chakrabortty’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/chakrabortty/status/409810696763760640

Filed under: Uncategorized Tagged: Austerity, Conservatism, neoliberalism

Parchment in the Fire: Polanyi on the Persistence of Economic Dogma

In reading Karl Polanyi’s 1944 classic, The Great Transformation, I’ve come across some passages regarding the persistence of the doctrines of economic liberalism (what we would today refer to as neo-liberalism) despite the onset of economic crisis. Despite being written almost 70 years ago, it sounds like it could have been written today:

‘Secular tenets of social organization embracing the whole civilized world are not disloged by the events of a decade. Both in Great Britain and in the United States millions of independent business units derived their existnce from the principle of laissez-faire. Its spectacular failure in one (Read more…)

Parchment in the Fire: Competition and the Commercial Spirit

I came across this gem while reading Hayek’s discussion of private monopoly and competition in Law, Legislation and Liberty. Hayek is discussing the relationship between competition and economic rationality, disputing those who argue that economic rationality or the ‘commercial spirit’ needs to exist for competition to work. In contrast, Hayek argues that the relationship works the other way round: bring in competition and people will be forced to embrace economic rationality in order to survive:

This should be remembered particularly by those who are inclined to argue that competition will not work among people who lack the spirit of enterprise: (Read more…)

The Cracked Crystal Ball II: Societal Dysfunction and Why We Need Food Banks

A friend made the following, very perceptive, comment the other day, and it serves as the inspiration for this post. What is wrong with us/our governments that we either cannot or will not address the systemic issues that force so many people to rely on food banks? They were supposed to be temporary! Now they are a fixture and needed more than ever. That is a systemic societal failure.

On the whole, there is an underlying point to this comment that I want to address in the context of today's political environment, because it is our politics which I see (Read more…)

Parchment in the Fire: Orthodox economists have failed their own market test | Seumas Milne | Comment is free | The Guardian

Orthodox economists have failed their own market test | Seumas Milne | Comment is free | The Guardian.

From any rational point of view, orthodox economics is in serious trouble. Its champions not only failed to foresee the greatest crash for 80 years, but insisted such crises were a thing of the past. More than that, some of its leading lights played a key role in designing the disastrous financial derivatives that helped trigger the meltdown in the first place.

Plenty were paid propagandists for the banks and hedge funds that tipped us off their speculative cliff. Acclaimed figures in (Read more…)

Parchment in the Fire: Crash! A brief history of modern global capitalism – audio slideshow | Comment is free | theguardian.com

Crash! A brief history of modern global capitalism – audio slideshow | Comment is free | theguardian.com.

An amazing slideshow of a century of capitalist development and economic crisis narrated by one of my former professors, Leo Panitch, author of The Making of Global Capitalism.

Filed under: Capitalism Tagged: Austerity, Capitalism, crisis, neoliberalism

Parchment in the Fire: Debt and Deficit as Shock Therapy » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names

Debt and Deficit as Shock Therapy » CounterPunch: Tells the Facts, Names the Names.

When Naomi Klein published her ground-breaking book The Shock Doctrine (2007), which compellingly demonstrated how neoliberal policy makers take advantage of overwhelming crisis times to privatize public property and carry out austerity programs, most economists and media pundits scoffed at her arguments as overstating her case. Real world economic developments have since strongly reinforced her views.

Using the unnerving 2008 financial crash, the ensuing long recession and the recurring specter of debt default, the financial oligarchy and their proxies in the governments of core capitalist countries (Read more…)

Parchment in the Fire: The grip of privatisation on our vital services has to be broken | Seumas Milne | Comment is free | The Guardian

The grip of privatisation on our vital services has to be broken | Seumas Milne | Comment is free | The Guardian.

Any doubts about who really controls Britain should have now been dispelled. Any thought that the financial crisis might have broken the neoliberal spell, rebalanced the economy or chastened the deregulators and privatisers can be safely dismissed. October has been the month when the monopolies, City hedge funds and foreign-owned cartels put the record straight. It’s they who are calling the shots.

In the past week, a Swiss-based tax exile announced the closure of the Grangemouth petrochemicals plant, a crucial slice (Read more…)

Parchment in the Fire: Preparing for the Perfect Storm: Neoliberal Authoritarianism in an Age of Austerity

Two noteworthy news items for this week:

First, the Guardian ran an article last week regarding the soon to be published Social Mobility and Child Poverty report on, well, social moblity and child poverty in the UK. According to the paper, leaked findings of the report indicate a gloomy future for the children of the middle class. As quoted by the Guardian:

The commission is also expected to warn of a gathering “perfect storm” of graduate debt, lack of finance to buy homes and job insecurity that threatens middle-class children as they emerge from full-time education. Graduates will come out (Read more…)