Losing control of the mic

Here is the unaired segment from a disastrous interview by Fox News’ star mouth-piece, Tucker Carlson, in which Dutch Historian, Rutger Bregman, said some very naughty things he wasn’t supposed to.

 

It made my day, I hope it makes yours; enjoy:

 

Tucker/Bregman

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“The use of the misleading term “populism” for everything that is either to the left or to the right of the Clinton-W-Obama consensus implies that the only real, serious and responsible policies are those of that consensus. But it is precisely these policies that are at the origin of the rise of “populism”. So we come to the paradoxical conclusion that to fight “populism” you need to support policies which have led to the rise of “populism” in the first place.”

            –   Branko Milanovic, 03/02/2019

 

Quote day (IN A NEW FORMAT!… Oooooo!!)

Europe’s Low-Wage Economy

 

There are few examples (certainly in the developed world) of countries choosing to be low-wage economies and it’s safe to say, usually, the economic goals of governments are quite the opposite.

 

Regimes which have actively pursued penury in the past have almost always been feudalistic despots and oligarchs – Yelstin’s Russia (which wasn’t really Yesltin’s),  the extractive fiefdoms of Africa, the banana republics of Central and South America.

 

To hoard profits at the expense of investment and development has, however, been a growing trend in the financialised economies of Europe over the last few decades, but nowhere is this more crude, or the hoarders more empowered in and by the legislature, than in the Sick Man of Europe (soon to be the Sick Man of Nowhere), Britain (oh, sorry Great Britain).

 

In the endless debate over what caused the Industrial Revulotion – something of a Holy Grail for economic historians, one of the more substantive arguments comes from Bob Allen’s The British Industrial Revolution in Global Perspective. It’s argument is quite simple, “The Industrial Revolution, in short, was invented in Britain in the eighteenth century because it paid to invent it there”.

 

To summarize, taking “macro-inventions” (like the spinning jenny, Arkwright’s mill and coke smelting) and investing in them, innovating them, till they were commercially viable was a worthwhile investment in GB because of its historically high labour costs and relatively cheap coal. While “macro-inventions” occurred throughout Europe, a French entrepreneur, for example, would never rationally make such a large and uncertain investment because labour was so cheap and readily available (they did not need to be replaced or made more productive to be competitive). In Belgium, while labour was also costly, so was coal and so went any incentive to replace the former with the latter.

 

While there were many other essential prerequisites, such as the preceding agrarian revolution and the development of capitalists in the colonies, Allen’s factor price assessment certainly makes for some interesting incites as we look at the sorry state of Britain today and its chronic productivity.

 

While claims that the employment rate is at a “record high” are clearly misleading (the population is at a record high), there is no doubt that unemployment is incredibly low – its 4% being the lowest since 1974/5.  Even involuntary part-time employment is lower in the UK (10.5 per cent of the total employment figures) than the EU average (26.4 per cent) and has fallen in recent years.

 

Brits reading this, however, may be forgiven for not feeling all that optimistic. Orthodox economics decrees, in its infallible wisdom, that low unemployment (and, thus, a scarcity of labour) should permeate wage growth but Britain is currently enduring the longest period of wage stagnation since the Napoleonic Wars and, among OECD countries, only Greece and Mexico fared worse in wage growth since the financial crisis.

 

Of course, we are all aware of this and, as Planet Money listeners among you will attest, so is the economic orthodoxy – which has been trying to wrap its head around the problem for the last year or so. One of its great obstacles, though, is that it is missing an important observation, the separation of wages from productivity precedes 2008.

 

Since about the 1970s, in most developed economies productivity has risen faster than wages. This meant shareholders and corporate executives keeping more of their businesses’ profits for themselves. In the US, for example, wages ground to a complete halt under Clinton with real median household income in 2014 barely being higher than in 1990, despite GDP growth of 78% since 1990 and labour productivity growth of 85% since 1980 (This, for my money, is the predominate cause behind Trump’s success). In the UK, though many workers at the bottom of the income spectrum are paid less than their marginal productivity, many at the top are paid more.

 

What does all this have to do with Bob? Well, the separation of profits from wages is, in turn, separating profits from productivity.

 

Before the 2008 crisis, much of Britain’s productivity growth was driven by illusory gains in financial and professional services, which have now evaporated. The financialised growth model gave rise to a highly imbalanced economy, with the finance and property sectors sucking in capital from the rest of the world, driving up the value of sterling and damaging our more productive manufacturing exporters. These sectors have also attracted the highest-skilled workers and domestic investment, leaving less for knowledge-intensive industries. The result has been a preponderance of low-paid, low-productivity employment in the services sector.

 

Combine Britain’s lack of knowledge-intensive industries, its low wages and its staunch ideological opposition to either public investment or incentivising private sector investment and employment increases suddenly become less a sign of productivity growth than of under investment. With labour so cheap, many businesses have chosen to hire more staff rather than invest in new machinery, thus burning a new economic path for Britain; one whose trend growth and opportunities will be, perhaps irrevocably, downgraded.

America’s subversion of Haiti’s democracy continues

I was brushing up on my knowledge of modern Haiti recently (Yes, I just said that and, No, I don’t have many friends), when I came across this article which really does, along with its URL links, provide an encompassing overview of Haiti’s tragic modern story at the hands of its colonial overlords.

 

Enjoy:

 

America’s subversion of Haiti’s democracy continues – Mark Weisbrot, 2012

Yuval Noah Harari

15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

Matthew 7:15-20 (KJV)

 

Danny Gutwein’s excellent play-by-play of The Chosen One‘s new book, 21 Lessons for the Twenty-First Century; very succinct, very enjoyable. So enjoy:

Danny Gutwein, ‘How Yuval Noah Harari Became the Pet Ideologist of the Liberal Elites’

 

 

The New York Times celebrates colonialism

I’ve often read NYT and gasped in bewilderment at the great depths of their ignorance. Here, in this 21st century hour, at this beloved place of the educated east coast elites, America continually promotes neoliberal projects which have wreaked ruin across the world.

 

“Modernising” despots like Kagame are heralded, Socialist democrats like Chavez are demonised, the promotion of the Washington Consensus in the name of “development” goes on unquestioned and, apparently, potentially wiping out an entire people in an attempt to force Jesus on them is an act to be celebrated.

 

A few days ago, an American missionary (ya know, like the ones who promoted the now extremely violent homophobia in Eastern Africa in the 1970s) was killed by the uncontacted people of North Sentinel Island as he attempted to “save” them from Satan and introduce Christianity to them. After a day of being shouted at, threatened and having an arrow shot through his bible, he was surprised they didn’t “accept me right away” despite offering them a football, a fish and shouting “Jesus loves you!” at them… in English, of course.

 

Naturally, he decided to stay and, the following day, was seen – in cadaver form – being dragged across the beach. What a pity.

 

Now, I don’t mean to romanticise the lives of these islanders and I doubt they would stand to benefit nothing from contact but if history has taught me one thing, it’s that when a Christian of any kind – let alone a missionary who consider’s you and your culture as “Satan’s last stronghold” –  knocks at your door wanting to civilize you (all the while being riddled with microbes which may wipe out your entire family), you shoot that Christian. You shoot him dead.

 

For the history of missionaries’ impact is long and uniform. The National Geographic:

 

‘ “In the past, missionaries were a major force in contacting, pacifying, and settling isolated indigenous people throughout the Amazon, often causing demographic decimation and cultural erosion along the way,” said Glenn Shepard, an American anthropologist and ethnobotanist at Museu Paraense Emilio Goeldi, in Belém, Brazil.

 

And like the pacified tribes of South America, indigenous peoples of the Andamans soon succumbed to contagious diseases and wholesale social disintegration in the wake of contact. The Jarawa tribe, after laying down their bows and arrows on South Andaman Island in the late 1990s, has endured two deadly outbreaks of measles.

 

Their once proud warriors have been reduced to listlessness and alcoholism, their children even made to dance for handouts by unscrupulous tour operators guiding “human safaris” along the trunk road that now cuts through their traditional territory. Other Andaman tribes in turn have suffered demographic shock and cultural collapse following efforts to force them into settled communities.’

 

Now, there are other viewpoints. In the NYT‘s desperately sympathetic piece for the fallen zealot, the only criticism they can muster is for the Indian government which protects the uncontacted indigenous community from imperialists and tourists alike. That they have left the islanders alone “with no school, aid, development or government services” is seen as a crime in and of itself because these things are objective goods in the eyes of NYT – who seem to have lost any grasp of their normative purposes.

 

The NYT does not need to know anything about this tribe of blacks to know that it is inferior to themselves, that the Indian government’s policy is almost cruel and that the risks taken by this bible-basher were gallant.

 

 

In his final notes, the American pondered, “What makes them become this defensive and hostile?”, to answer that and combine both how best to treat such invaders with why it is best to treat them so, I leave the rest to the ineffable Wednesday Addams: