maternal mortality rates in Texas are the highest in the ” developed” world…..Some dare to speak of “family values”…

http://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/texas-has-highest-maternal-mortality-rate-developed-world-why-n791671

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1. read Prof. Ruccio’s discussion of markets:

https://anticap.wordpress.com/2017/07/24/myth-of-the-market-2/

and 2.  apply it to the debate between ODS and the Green Party in the Czech Republic. What would Ruccio say about this debate?

https://www.seznam.cz/zpravy/clanek/plan-vykupovat-byty-duchodcu-prilepseni-na-penzi-nebo-ekonomicky-nesmysl-34596

Brief summary of the debate: The Green party spokesperson (Stropnicky the younger, whose father is Minister of ” defense”, and happy to accede to US demands to increase military funding) suggested the government could purchase apartments owned by pensioners.  In addition, he proposed that the government should pay rent to the former owners.  The purpose is to increase pensions.  This would aldo provide a stock of “social housing” for the future.

The representative of ODS, an “economic expert” took the fundamental position that there is a shortage of housing because there is interference in the market.

Moreover, he suggested that if the government today owned housing, there would occur abuses such as occurred during communism.

An especially striking complaint was moral: ownership, in and of itself, makes people better. It makes people responsible— a favorite word of the Czech right.

So, to take away property from pensioners would do what.? Would it make them prone to be less prudent? (Imagine hordes of the elderly pensioners in wheel chairs, with canes, and walkers flocking to the numerous gambling establishments in the Czech Republic!  A shocking picture of moral degeneration.  All because they were deprived of a fundamental human right.)

I suspect the economic expert would not favor worker owned and managed enterprises.– But wouldn’ t that also mean more responsibility?  I wonder how he would respond.

I was very interested when Stropnicky connected the housing shortage in Prague to real estate speculation.  He said that on account of the low interest rate some individuals had purchased several apartments— not to live in them, but to speculate — supposing prices would go up.

He also mentioned that land in the center of the capital was not used for housing but for shopping malls.

And he was keen on the idea of helping new families; why, he asked, should they have to begin their lives by going into debt?

The ODS answer to that was along the lines of: you can choose freely to go into debt.  And I believe he said (in effect,) It has worked for me.  In other words, he held out his own financial success as a sort of prove.

This is a rough summary.  I may have missed things.  ( My understanding of Czech is not perfect.)  But I have tried to be accurate.

However, I must confess that everything the ODS “expert” said sounded like a libertarian ideology of freedom and responsibility, not anything like economics— and surely not scientific.  The suggestion that ” it worked for me, so the system is good”—-my paraphrase of the what I took to be the core of his thoughts on loans— is so patently question-begging that the word “expert,” should get a new dictionary entry.

 

Growing up with parents who had vivid memories of the ” Great Depression” — which was actually the second big collapse of Capitalism (and not the last) I was aware that everything in the surrounding society encouraged a sort of impulsive squandering.

That can sound unwholesome and moralistic; it is not.

All that we take for granted–machines and food, even household pets– exist only because other human beings engaged with reality out of curiosity and with the hope, perhaps sometimes mostly latent, of some benefit.  When I trash some inexpensive item, I disrespect their efforts.

And our disrespect is aided by the tendency to view everything as a commodity, and to measure everything in terms of the price it goes for on the market.  But the unpopular truth is that nothing (and no one) is cheap. The ease with which we discard is testimony to the power of illusion.  So called low prices tempt us to tolerate destruction of that which someone else paid for—not with dollars, but with the substance of their lives.

And the nastiest version of this is when a group of people is tied to low wages, as if that were somehow part of their essence—ideology and superstition providing a ready excuse for the mistreatment of human beings.

 

 

 

My students find it hard to grasp the thought that things can get worse. Some are seduced by the delusion that they will somehow become rich. Others are only partially aware of the complexities they will face at work— especially the threat that the EU is currently engaged in an attack on workers— in Greece, but in France as well, where Macron intends to introduces the changes Holland could not make.

In the linked video Linda Kaucher provides an excellent description of the problems, especially because it highlights the need for struggle—- as opposed to the passive acceptance preached by so-called Business English texts.

http://therealnews.com/t2/story:19177:Post-Brexit-Trade-Deals—Who-Will-be-the-Winners-and-Losers%3F

 

It is quiet right now, but I do not know how long it will last. And that makes me nervous.

For the past two- and- one-half hours I have been trying to read, think, write—-unsuccessfully.
It is exactly as if I tried to stand up straight, and every time I managed to stand up—- started to think, — I was knocked down—kicked, slapped, roughly shoved….because noises are a form of violence… noises are violence—- and I have been struck, slapped, kicked by XXXa and her smug, selfish noises.
And now I hear noise in the stairwell. My blood turns cold. Is it XXXa? she and her son shout and laugh with total abandon, as if it they owned the house, as if there were no neighbors, or as if the neighbors were unimportant— as if the neighbors were deaf. But I am not deaf.
Maybe it is not XXXa on the stair now, but I live in fear of her and her son, her friends.  I have no control over my own environment, my space, the space I pay for! My space is invaded willy nilly by XXXa and her noises, as if I did not exist.  I have no privacy, private space, no space of my own, unless XXXa ( by chance, and without intention) grants it to me.  She invades my space whenever she feels like it.  I have no right to rest, peace, quiet.  All that has been stolen from me by an arrogant proud woman who recognizes no rights except her personal right to her own motherhood.

I had a converation the other day with the Czech manager of a factory in the Czech Republic.

I teased him with a thought I often use to provoke Czech students:  Greeks work more hours than Germans.

His reaction was immediate:  There’s no surprise; Germans have machines.  And anyway working hours don’t prove anything.

However, what happened next was interesting.

He went on to compare Czech workers (his employees) to their German counterparts–to the disadvantage of Czechs.

But, he ignored one question:  Why are Germans different?  Why do they have the machines?

And he didn’t ask whether it might have something to do with German colonies in Africa or anything like that…

But there’s a further point.  So far as I can tell, he was indulging a sort of primitive (but natural) habit of thought which views groups as natural kinds with hidden essences– a way of thinking contrary to evolutionary theory, and a way of thinking documented by the Yale psychologist Paul Bloom

Both the rich and the poor deserve adequate retirement income after a long working life.–Teresa Ghilarducci

 

In an earlier post I quoted Ha Joon Chang’s remark that Economics could never be like Physics because individual economists operate with assumptions about politics and morality.

As a Philosopher, I’ve got to add that I consider politics and morality to be subjects which can be rationally debated and discussed.  (And I try to bring that to my classes.)

I am providing a link now to the website of one Economist who has argued that retirement is part of civilization—that a society owes it to older workers to allow them a stress-free time to reflect upon their life and enjoy time with their families.

I hope some of my students will take the time to explore what she has to say:

http://teresaghilarducci.org/

In light of the prominent propaganda campaign about “financial literacy”, I might have titled this post:  Against the New Spirit of the Age.

For: Tuesday 8am, Wednesday 2pm Class; English for Students of Economy

Some interesting claims from Ha-Joon Chang’s Economics: The User’s Guide, Penguin, 2014.

Is Economics a science?

…economics can never be a science in the sense that physics or chemistry is. There are many different types of economic theory, each emphasizing different aspects of complex reality, making different moral and political value judgments and drawing different conclusions.“  –Ha Joon Chang,p. 5

Example:

the whole idea is social security is a public obligation. There are certain rights of citizens and the rights should be after your working life you deserve a retirement. And you have to be able to afford this retirement and not have to beg in the street for money

–(added emphasis), Michael Hudson, economis(For DETAILS, see below, Michael Hudson versus Alan Greenspan on the question of pensions.)

So, Hudson says that it is a social value.  We take care of the old–just as we take care of the young.  And it is an obligation of society.–Society, as a whole.

Contrasting with that approach is something I hear from students, and which Professor Chang shows to be part of one specific approach to Economics, the Neo-Classical Theory.  NCT views each of us as disconnected individuals.  And that makes it seem “logical” to say that everyone must save for his or her own retirement.

but, as Professor Chang points out, NCT ignores the existing society, which amounts to the unstated presupposition that it is just.  However, there is a clear history of abuse, exploitation, robbery and worse–and wealth is based upon those less rational aspects of humanity.  (See my recent link to a study of the economic effects of slavery.)

Can one theory explain economic reality?

TO BE EXPANDED/UNDER CONSTRUCTION^*****

Singapore, p. 49

An example of Moral and political value judgments in economics: The right to have a pension.

Michael Hudson:

“Nobody really anticipated in the 19th century that people would have to pay for their own retirement. This was viewed as an obligation of society and you had the first pension social security program in Germany under Bismarck. And the whole idea is social security is a public obligation. There are certain rights of citizens and the rights should be after your working life you deserve a retirement. And you have to be able to afford this retirement and not have to beg in the street for money. So the wool that’s been pulled over people’s eyes is to imagine that because they’re the beneficiaries of social security they have to actually pay for it.

And this was Alan Greenspan, a trick that he pulled basically in the 1980s when he was head of the Greenspan Commission. He said, “Let’s achieve what we need to do in America. We need to traumatize the workers. We need to squeeze them so much that they will never have the courage to strike. Never have the courage to ask for better working conditions. Let’s really squeeze them and the best way to do it is to very sharply increase their taxation. But we won’t call it a tax. Of course it’s a tax, but we will say it’s not a tax, it’s your contribution to your social security.” And now this is 15.4% of everybody’s pay check. It comes right off the top. What Greenspan did was say, “Let’s make the wage earners, as a whole, pay this FICA cut out of their pay check every month, let’s lend it to the government and now with all of this huge surplus that we’re squeezing out of the wage earners there’s a cut-off point now.” The cut-off is around 120,000. Rich people don’t have to pay for the social security funding, only the wage earner class has to. This is lent to the government to actually enable the government to say, “We have so much extra money in our budget pouring in from social security that now we can afford to cut taxes on the rich.”

So the sharp increase in social security tax for the wage earners went hand-in-hand with the sharp reduction in the taxes on real estate, on finance and on the … TA(?) part of society. The people who live on economic rent, not by working, not by producing goods and services but by making more money on their real estate, on their stocks and bonds in their sleep. And that’s how the five percent have basically been able to make their money.

So the whole idea that social security has to be funded by the beneficiaries has all been a setup for them to claim now, we can’t afford to pay any of the money because the budget doesn’t have enough money. Social security’s running a budget and after running a surplus since 1933, for 70 years, now we have to begin paying it out, that’s the deficit, that’s the disaster, we have to begin cutting back social security. What Donald Trump is saying we want wage earners to have to starve in the street after they retire.

Michael Hudson, Interviewabout J is forJunk Economics, The Real News, http://therealnews.com/t2/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=31&Itemid=74&jumival=18584

Michael Hudson is President of The Institute for the Study of Long-Term Economic Trends (ISLET), a Wall Street Financial Analyst, Distinguished Research Professor of Economics at the University of Missouri, Kansas City and author of Killing the Host (2015), The Bubble and Beyond (2012), Super-Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American Empire (1968 & 2003), Trade, Development and Foreign Debt (1992 & 2009) and of The Myth of Aid (1971), amongst many others.

TEST YOUR UNDERSTANDING: What would Michael Hudson say about the idea of so-called financial literacy in the Czech Republic? The idea seems to be that you have to start saving for your retirement when you are a child…..

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/03/understanding-long-run-effects-africas-slave-trades.html


A black lady I knew was working both a nine to five job and the night shift here in order to make extra money.  I’m not sure how she functioned this way, but she seemed to manage.

Until she didn’t.  She finally got so sick from lack of sleep that her daughter had to call an ambulance.  She ended up losing all the extra money she made by working two jobs instead of one.

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/03/working-for-amazon-better-than-sex-worse-than-hell-part-2.html

Why was she working two jobs?  See earlier posts about the USA.

WARNING NOTE:  Strictly speaking, we are talking about “non-elite” jobs.  I believe that most of my students imagine they will have elite jobs, and to that I say (sincerely):  Good Luck!

Yanis Varoufakis

THOUGHTS FOR THE POST-2008 WORLD

Real-World Economics Review Blog

Posts are by authors of papers published in the RWER. Anyone may comment.

occasional links & commentary

on economics, culture and society

Michael Roberts Blog

blogging from a marxist economist

naked capitalism

Fearless commentary on finance, economics, politics and power

NAKED KEYNESIANISM

4 out of 5 dentists recommend this WordPress.com site

RD Wolff Articles

4 out of 5 dentists recommend this WordPress.com site

Yanis Varoufakis

THOUGHTS FOR THE POST-2008 WORLD

Real-World Economics Review Blog

Posts are by authors of papers published in the RWER. Anyone may comment.

occasional links & commentary

on economics, culture and society

Michael Roberts Blog

blogging from a marxist economist

naked capitalism

Fearless commentary on finance, economics, politics and power

NAKED KEYNESIANISM

4 out of 5 dentists recommend this WordPress.com site

RD Wolff Articles

4 out of 5 dentists recommend this WordPress.com site