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!

Some people here have worked in other warehouse jobs, and they say this one is worse.  Talking like that pisses off one of my more muscular coworkers.  “If you don’t like your job, quit!” he declares.  “If you don’t like your life, kill yourself!”

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

 

I have noticed that when I discuss employee-employer disputes, some students take the side of the employer, and others take the side of the employee.

So, for example, we can see with the UBER-CEO that some students thought the driver must have done something wrong.  Surely he could have found a better job. In other words, he shouldn’t complain.

I pointed out that there are not so many job possibilities for many people in the USA.  And, wages have been stagnant.  Working conditions have been getting worse.

Here is a chart to illustrate the history:

https://i2.wp.com/www.epi.org/files/charts/img/13602.png

And, for an analysis, we will go to Professor Richard D. Wolff, in the following video link:

(further comments coming, but he answers the question starting at minute 34)

Links added 4 March (below)

Corrected 6 .3. 2017

This morning there was lively discussion provoked by the report that the Uber CEO had insulted a driver.

I made the point that this is a case of the absence of democracy in the workplace.  However, I was unaware of important details.  I did not understand that the driver had purchased a car with the assumption that he’d have a specific income.  Therefore, when prices were lowered, he was screwed.  (My take on it.)

As I said in class, the driver made the reasonable assumption that he should have input into decisions that affect his life.

The boss did not agree–at least not at the time.

There’s much more to say about it.

I do think, and I did say in class that when you are selling your labor, you cannot indefinitely cut your price.  At a certain point, you just cannot go lower.

That is not true for a commodity.  (This is a point I learned from John Weeks in his Economics for the 1%)

The Guardian has more information, and a better video than that which I watched with my class.  I am posting this now for future reference.

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/feb/28/uber-ceo-travis-kalanick-driver-argument-video-fare-prices

A crucial quote

Kamel drove his point home. “People are not trusting you any more,” he said. “I lost $97,000 because of you. I’m bankrupt because of you … You keep changing every day.”

Here’s a link to the story at Bloomberg

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-28/in-video-uber-ceo-argues-with-driver-over-falling-fareshttps://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-02-28/in-video-uber-ceo-argues-with-driver-over-falling-fares

And you can compare The Guardian:

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/feb/28/uber-ceo-travis-kalanick-driver-argument-video-fare-prices

FURTHER LINKS; THINGS I MENTIONED IN CLASS

Kenneth Arrow’s work shows surprising things about economics

http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/02/bill-black-kenneth-arrows-ignored-impossibility-theorem.html

IN 30 years will life expectancy in the Czech Republic be higher than the same as the USA?  A new study says so…http://www.nakedcapitalism.com/2017/02/lancet-study-life-expectancy-2030-confirms-poor-us-performance.html

PLEASE NOTE CORRECTION ABOVE

https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/oct/28/uber-uk-tribunal-self-employed-status

Jan Švankmajer on Creativity, Childhood, and Art

Walt Disney je jedním z největších prznitelů dětských duší . . .

All questions refer to the interview with Jan Švankmajer that appeared in Nový Prostor 410 February 2013, pages 21-23. (A copy of the interview was passed out in class.)

Answers should be in your own words, but may include quotations –your translation into English of Švankmajer’s Czech.

Motivation: Criticism and/or analysis presupposes understanding. Intelligent criticism presupposes understanding. You cannot effectively or intelligently criticize a person‘s views or the views contained in a text (even an interview in a homeless magazine) unless you understand the text/the person’s arguments first. The purpose of this exercise is to develop understanding of Švankmajer’s ideas, including his critique of Walt Disney and večerníček.

1. According to Švankmajer, what is the connection between childhood and artistic creativity?

2. Can you think of an example where childhood memories could help artistic creation? Describe/Explain

3. Švankmajer talks about the “domestication” of childhood imagination by a Reality Principle in school and society. (The “Reality Principle” is part of Freud’s theory of development. The child is first a total egotist and only gradually recognizes and responds to the wishes of other people. See, e.g. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reality_principle)

He also complains about the way children are taught to respect “pragmatic” examples.

…společnost se svým vnucováním pragmatických vzorů…….

He says society  harms the imaginative dimension.  Society, he says, is trying to get rid of the imaginative dimension.  (My translation of his words:  snaží zbavit právě imaginativního rozmerů.)

The artist, according to Švankmajer should allow fantasy or imagination to develop and resist domestication and the glorification of what is pragmatic. What do you think he means? Try to think of an example. (Notice: we domesticate animals and plans. Undomesticated animals are wild.)

4. Why does Švankmajer think he had a better chance of preserving his child’s imagination than children do today? (a) What did his mother and other mothers do back then? (b) What do children experience today that is different?

Hint: Who had more individual imagination/stories?–Children today or Švankmajer’s generation?

Notice his phrase collective visual stimulation. Collective is roughly the opposite of individual.

5. YOUR TURN:  Now, if you have re-read the interview and have answered the above questions, you should add your own thoughts, comments or criticism of Švankmajer‘s views.  However, see the WARNING below.

Dneska se děti večer posadí před bednu, a tak všechny děti večer co večer koukají na stejný přiblbý večerníček.  Jak z nich za této situace můžou vyrůst výrazné individuality, když jsou všechny krmeny stejnou “imaginaci”

WARNING
It is not criticism—and not especially thoughtful to simply say: “But I like večerníček! That is not a response (answer) to or criticism of anything ¨Švankmajer said. You may very well like it and you may like Disney too, and it could still be true that Švankmajer is right to say that society as a whole is worse off on account of these forms of collective visualization. It could be that children who have never watched večerníček, but heard fairy tales from their mothers have a more powerful and more individual creative imagination than the rest of us.  Whether you or I like večerníček or Disney has nothing to do with Švankmajer’s analysis.

A further comment about Disney and večerníček: A student of economics might say that those tools for collective imagination involved an opportunity cost. The opportunity for fostering unique and individual imagination was lost. That is one way to think about what Švankmajer has said. 

But, let’s not pretend that Švankmejer’s vision of creativity, imagination, and what society might be has anything in common with the sort of creativity or “innovation” discussed in the world of business and economics.  Social criticism is fundamental to the Surrealist movement–and Švankmejer is the leading contemporary Czech representative.  (About contemporary Czech surrealism, see http://www.surrealismcentre.ac.uk/papersofsurrealism/journal3/acrobat_files/Solarik.pdf

To students in JC/EPAEF:  Your exam will be on 21 December in the usual place at the usual time.

WARNING:  This is a rough draft.  (As of Sunday, 18, December.) I shall be making changes.  But if you’ve been coming to class regularly, there should be no surprises.

EXAM QUESTIONS  (additions 19.12)

I. WORK

. There’s 4,000 store managers in McDonald’s. There are a million people working in McDonald’s restaurants.

–Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, which represents over 2 million workers. 

EXAM QUESTIONS

I. WORK

There’s 4,000 store managers in McDonald’s. There are a million people working in McDonald’s restaurants.

–Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, which represents over 2 million workers. https://www.democracynow.org/2016/12/9/fight_for_15_foe_and_fasthttps://www.democracynow.org/2016/12/9/fight_for_15_foe_and_fast

In Chapter Two, we were told that there s always a trade-off between work and family. In the story we read, Parvin Calder owned her own business and said she would never sacrifice her family for work:

… I would never sacrifice my marriage and my family

to my business.” (p. 107)

Ms. Crofts (p. 16) is currently sacrificing her personal life in the hope that someday it will pay off:

“You have to sacrifice your personal life if you want

career advancement.” (p. 16)

Is this a contradiction? Some people have to sacrifice, but others do not? Ms. Calder owns her own business. Ms. Crofts does not.

If the numbers above from McDonalds are realistic, is Ms. Crofts being realistic? (IE The numbers from McDonalds suggest that the possibilities for advancement are limited…)

What do you think about the work-family trade-off? Do you agree with the textbook? (Explain)

Recommended viewing (in Czech)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qa5nQjgzMIk

II. GLOBALIZATION/DE-INDUSTRIALIZATION

In Chapter Three, we read a story about globalization or de-industrialization. The textbook described how jobs and factories moved to China.

1. In class, the Instructor pointed out several important facts which were omitted in the story. Please list three below.

 

With this new information supplied in class, has your view of globalization changed?  Should it change?  (The textbook alone says it is inevitable, but does not consider harmful side-effects.)

2.  In Chapter 3 (p. 24) we are told that

…for most of us today the idea of a job for life – or at least a safe job has    been untrue for years.

Do you agree or disagree? Why or why not?

III. Trade, trade wars and wars

What was the “Banana War” between the USA and Europe? What did the WTO say? Who won?

update; CURIOUSER AND CURIOUSER….

Curiouser and Curiouser: the Wikipedia article “United States-European Relations” includes the following line:

The Clinton administration .. took the banana wars to

the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 1999, when

Chiquita made a $500,000 donation to the Democratic

Party.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States%E2%80%93European_Union

(recall:  Chiquita = United Fruit)

What happened in Guatemala on June 18 1954?

What significance does this have for trade with the USA?

Briefly, (BUT SEE LINK BELOW)

CIA pilots bombed the capital. Mercenaries supported by the CIA overthrew the democratically elected government to prevent labor reform, and murdered 8,000 peasants.

THIS WAS ALL DONE FOR THE SAKE OF THE PROFITS OF United Fruit Company, a USA company. (Chiquita Brands today is the descendant of United Fruit. Side note: Formerly Nazi companies such as Siemens exist today.  Does that tell us anything about a connection (disconnection) between business and democracy?)

Here see the first paragraph of the linked article:

http://www.jstor.org/stable/43648969

For further info. , see also:  https://hbr.org/2005/11/banana-war-maneuvers

Question Two:

Who is José Bové?   How is he connected to trade? What was the dispute between the USA and Europe that led him to his actions? (Hint: a trade war, but about what?)

Why did the US government declare him guilty of moral turpitude?

Wikipedia offers the following definition of moral turpitude:

“act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellowmen, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man.

Do you agree with the US Government? Was Bove guilty of “moral turpitude”? Explain why or why not.

How does the use of this expression (moral turpitude) reflect the deep Puritan morality of the USA? (Hint: turpitude usually refers to sexual crimes. How can money/business get connected with sex crimes? Answer: via Puritanism.)

A WAR ABOUT BANANA PRICES/PROFITS

What happened in Guatemala on June 18 1954?

What significance does this have for trade with the USA?

Briefly, (BUT SEE LINK BELOW)

CIA pilots bombed the capital. Mercenaries supported by the CIA overthrew the democratically elected government to prevent labor reform.

THIS WAS ALL DONE FOR THE SAME OF THE PROFITS OF United Fruit Company. (Chiquita Brands today is the descendant of United Fruit. Side note: Formerly Nazi companies such as Siemens exist today.)

Here see the first paragraph of the linked article:

http://www.jstor.org/stable/43648969

Question Two:

Who was Jose Bove? What was the dispute between the USA and Europe that led him to his actions? (hint: a trade war, but about what?)

Why did the US government declare him guilty of moral turpitude?

Wikipedia offers the following definition:

“act of baseness, vileness, or depravity in the private and social duties which a man owes to his fellowmen, or to society in general, contrary to the accepted and customary rule of right and duty between man and man.

Do you agree wi

=

MARKETING

(1) A USP is a unique selling point; it should be something unique about the product something that gives you a reason to buy that brand and not another. Coke is supposed to be a brand with a USP.

However, just because Coke was the first syrupy carbonated beverate, that simply does not mean it is the best. So, that can’t be a good reason to buy it.

Secondly. more than 90 per cent of people cannot tell the difference between Coca-Cola and Pepsi.

Does Coke have anything unique about it? If there is nothing unique about Coke, and Coke is so successful, doesn’t that mean that we don’t need unique selling points?

(Explain your answer)

(2) Is it possible that the only unique selling point is the unique advertising campaign? (lifestyle advertising aimed at a specific group?) But, Is advertising really a good reason for a rational person to prefer one product rather than another? (I assume the advert. does not try to convince you that the pruduct is best by comparing it to the competitor.)

Lifestyle advertising tells you (.eg.) hippies like these jeans (and you want to be a hippy, so…) OR that successful bankers wear ties like this …etc.

THE BIG QUESTION:  Would our societies be better off if we spent less money on marketing and advertising, and more on schools, hospitals, and green energy?

 

In the Czech Republic, the PM Sobotka wants to have a progressive income tax.  That’s a good idea. his nemesis, the former member of the State Police and current Minister of the Economy, A. Babis says that poorer people just need higher wages.  I say they need higher wages AND lower taxes.  Let the wealthiest citizens pay more for the privileges they enjoy.   In principle the USA has a progressive tax, but there are too many loopholes for the rich.  And Trump wants to decrease taxes on the wealthiest (something like the .001 richest)…..

But the USA continues to decline, financially and (relatedly) in health

http://www.syracuse.com/us-news/index.ssf/2016/12/us_life_expectancy_falls_su_professor_sees_troubling_trends_for_poorer_people.html

http://news.stanford.edu/2016/12/08/todays-children-face-tough-prospects-better-off-parents/#

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