Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Economists and Inequality

by Joseph Joyce

Economists and Inequality

Binyamin Applebaum of the New York Times has written a book, The Economists’ Hour: False Prophets, Free Markets and the Fracture of Society, in which he claims that economists are responsible for the increase in income inequality in the U.S. I thought this charge was off the mark and wrote a reply. My piece, “Are Economists Responsible for Income Inequality?“, has been published in the June issue of Society. Here is the abstract:

Economists are held responsible by some for the increase in income inequality that has taken place in recent decades. Milton Friedman in particular has been singled out for advocating the removal of the government from almost all sectors of the economy, which led to an increase in inequality. But this charge is flawed for two reasons. First, Friedman’s views were always contested by other equally well-known and respected economists who advocate government policies to deal with markets where there are distortions, such as health care. Second, policy decisions are undertaken by public officials in response to many factors, including the advancement of personal and ideological agendas as well as the influence of donors and interest groups. The study of the causes and effects of inequality has become a central topic of economic research, and economists have a role to play in developing policies to address it.

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It’s the Economy

It’s the Economy

by

Ken Melvin

Ask any group of people who have successfully started a small business and to a person, they will tell you that there had been at least once when it could have gone either way. Eight out of ten fail in those perilous first two years. No doubt some of the 80% made fatal mistakes, but how many of them did everything right and still failed? Some of the 20% made what could have been fatal mistakes yet came out smelling like a rose. One struggles for five years to get a business going while another one makes $200,000 their first, the other’s fifth, year.

In America today, the outstanding student loan debt is more than $1.6 Trillion; some $200 Billion of which is in arrears. Maybe the student loan was taken out for a career change after losing their job due to globalization, automation, the 2008 crash, … or for a college degree to better their prospects of getting a better paying job, or for Law School and the prospect of a $300k/yr. salary, or for Medical School, … Turns out that after graduation there weren’t enough jobs, or positions; at least enough of any that paid enough.

Maybe they took out a student loan in order to become a research chemist. They make it to grad school only to find out that most chemical research is now being farmed out to Uzbekistan for $40,000/yr.

Graduated college a couple years back, now works as a barista and Uber driver until the job market opens up. Shares in SF.

Turns out that one’s chances for success depend on what year it was that one graduated from college. In a year when the job market is good, the chances of achieving success are quite good. Graduate in a year when there are few jobs and your career may never take off.

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Competency

Competency

by   Ken Melvin

What is the first criteria when a Board of Directors goes looking for a new CEO? When the construction firm goes looking for a project manager?

Of late, too often, US Politics seems to have a new standard for selecting officeholders. We have been, are, watching this horror of a Pandemic being mismanaged by elected incompetents. Incompetents who might have been promoted to yet higher positions if their incompetence hadn’t been exposed by the course of events. This isn’t about The Peter Principle at play. This is about a large group of US Politicians who were elected to high-level Executive positions based on their perceived allegiance to a specific ideology or dogma.

It is to be expected that Political Appointees, chits come due, are most often incompetent. But, here, we are talking about some Mayors and Governors, people elected to Executive Roles; that simply could not step up to the task at hand. Noted: There were, indeed, those who did step up; did so handsomely.

For weeks, we had been witness to some of these Governors’ media paean to: Markets, Capitalism, The Confederacy, Christian Values, Western Heroes, American Independence, … only too soon to be followed by record rates of Covid Infections in their states. Why follow the advice of Science and the Scientists? Why heed the guidelines of the CDC? What does Science know?

Appears that they still don’t understand the math, the doubling, science stuff like that. Easily influenced, these Governors followed the lead of an incompetent President who, too, didn’t understand the Science, nor the math; who couldn’t be bothered to read his briefings.

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Equivalence

Equivalence

by

Ken Melvin

These two things are not the same.

Giving a woman the right of choice doesn’t deny others that right of choice; makes no imposition on the rights of others. Denying a woman the right of choice imposes the will of others upon her.

When is it lawful for some members of a society to impose their will upon others? What right has the State to impose its will upon its citizens? When it is the writ of law. A State can declare acts to be illegal, even criminal, by the enactment of laws, so long as such laws aren’t in conflict with the State’s constitution. Since at least the 13th century, advanced States’ constitutions have guaranteed certain individual rights. The US Constitution explicitly guarantees certain individual rights and freedoms in the first (8) of its first (10) Amendments. Other rights are implicitly granted with:

the 9th Amendment

  • The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people —

and the 10th Amendment

  • The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people 

Succeeding ratified Amendments have explicitly, and implicitly, guaranteed other individual rights and freedoms. A citizen doesn’t have a constitutional right to steal from others, so it is constitutional to make stealing from others a crime; a case of society having the right to tell someone what they can not do.

So, it seems that the State might have the right to deny a woman the right of choice if women do not have the constitutional right of choice. It seems highly unlikely that such a right would be found in the Constitution or the Bill of Rights since women were but inhabitants, not even granted full citizenship, or even personhood, at the time, or even later when these first 10 Amendments were ratified. Women didn’t get the right to vote until 1920.

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Ask me anything — vacation edition

(Dan here…David offers a different sort of presentation from the normal for AB. Interesting?…)

Ask me anything — vacation edition

I’m going on vacation for a few weeks, so I am interrupting my normal blogging for something different.

(I’m not sure if you — or anyone — is interested in my Marshall 2020 Project posts, but I’m doing it for myself — and its a good distraction from every day crazy 😉

Anyways… I’d love to answer your questions about coronavirus, elections, jobs, trade, the economy, climate chaos, woodworking, watches, Amsterdam, sex, drugs, and/or water utilities.

Seriously — Ask Me Anything. 

So submit your question (name and location optional), and I’ll figure out whether it’s better for me to answer them in writing here or in a special episode of my Jive Talking podcast.

Stay safe from the crazies, support your community, and (hopefully) take a little time off from all the crazy that 2020 has brought us!

Author: David Zetland

I’m a political-economist from California who now lives in Amsterdam. 

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Differences

Differences

by Ken Melvin

… He said I have no opinion about this

And I have no opinion about that

Asked an Honors History Class what they thought was the most important issue facing America. In an earlier period, Patrick, a kid from Africa, responded, “our differences.” In a later period, a black female, in a plaintive voice, responded, “we are different.”

Indeed. We are a world of people with many differences: different politics, different religions, … different cultures. Not just here; worldwide, humans are wrestling with this question: How to live with our differences? Can we humans, after all our centuries, change enough? Change enough to accept our differences?

The importance of these questions came to the fore with the recent onslaught of immigration into Europe and has since played out in referenda/elections throughout Europe and the United States. The pending further, and of greater scale, dislocations caused by global warming/climate change and globalization, makes their answering imperative. Plus: What will resulting cultures look like? At what point does an existing culture become more like that of the immigrant? What is the tipping point? Can the center hold?

Over the past 20 years, really quite late, much of our nation has come to believe that someone else’s sexuality is really none of our business. We, as a nation, now accept lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender, LGBT, people as they are. Not ignore them, not tolerate them, not demand that they change; but accept them as they are. Yet, there are still regions of America, sectors of the population, where a majority of the people think that they know how people should act, should think, … that they have the right to demand that others change.

 

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