You are browsing the archive for 2014 April 03.

Avatar of admin

by admin

Joseph Stiglitz on Crony Capitalism

April 3, 2014 in Economics

By Randall Holcombe

Although Joseph Stiglitz has a reputation as one of the most prominent defenders of big government, I found much to agree with in his book, The Price of Inequality. It does appear to me that throughout the political spectrum, from left to right, there is a substantial consensus that government is the cause of many of the problems people perceive. The disagreement is over how to solve those problems.

Stiglitz sees many negative consequences from income and wealth inequality, and while I would question whether these negative consequences are as substantial as Stiglitz says, we both agree on the negative impact that government policy has in our society. Stiglitz, a critic on the political left, is in surprising agreement with David Stockman, a critic on the political right, that many of today’s economic and political problems are caused by government.

Both Stiglitz and Stockman argue that cronyism is damaging both our economic system and our democratic political system.

Criticizing the cronyism between business and government, Stiglitz (p. 59) says, “It’s one thing to win a ‘fair’ game. It’s quite another to be able to write the rules of the game–and to write them in ways that enhance one’s prospects of winning. And it’s even worse if you can choose your own referees.”

Stiglitz (p. 62) says, “It doesn’t have to be this way, but powerful interests ensure that it is.”

In a chapter titled “Why It Matters,” Stiglitz (pp. 104-105) says, “When one interest group holds too much power, it succeeds in getting policies that benefit itself, rather than policies that would benefit society as a whole. When the wealthiest use their political power to benefit excessively the corporations they control, much-needed revenues are diverted into the pockets of a few instead of benefiting society at large.”

In another chapter titled “Democracy in Peril,” Stiglitz (p. 167) says, “In this chapter we have described the construction of a political system that, though nominally based on the principle of one person one vote, has turned out to serve the interests of those at the top.” Why can’t we reform the system? Stiglitz (p. 170) says “moneyed interests have the incentives and resources to ensure that the system continues to serve their interests.”

Stiglitz has explained how the rich gain control of the political process and use it for their benefit, so the idea that more government can solve these problems that are created by …read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

Avatar of admin

by admin

The Most Elitist, Disgusting Supreme Court Has Rigged the Whole System in Favor of the Rich

April 3, 2014 in Blogs

By Don Hazen, AlterNet

The Supreme Court has crushed the last aspect of campaign finance reform. That's why we need your support.


You may have heard about the new book, “Flash Boys” by Michael Lewis, about how the stock market is rigged by super-fast computer trading; or perhaps you saw Lewis tell the story on 60 Minutes Sunday night. 

But it's not just the stock market that is rigged. The whole system is rigged.   

With Wednesday’s decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, the Supreme Court has doubled down on Citizen's United crushing the last aspect of campaign finance reform. It is now official, or perhaps more “official.” Plutocracy = The United Stated of America. The rich will rule at levels beyond our imagination even just a few years ago.  

Justice Breyer writing for the four Justices who don't represent the billionaire class said the decision undermines the political integrity of our governmental institutions”

“It creates a loophole that will allow a single individual to contribute millions of dollars to a political party or to a candidate’s campaign. …What has this to do with corruption? It has everything to do with corruption…. Today’s decision eviscerates our Nation’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve.”

Breyer couldn't be clearer. And we can't be clearer. This is depressing, infuriating, and it is time for us to revolt. Seriously. We can't take this any more. We need to double down on our belief in democracy and fairness, not on the most elitist, disgusting Supreme Court in history –thanks to George Bush.  

Please make a contribution to us and we will fight like hell. But not just to us — give money to grass roots groups building local power and fighting corporate power; to candidates who are clear they are on the side of the people, not the super wealthy.

The battle just gets tougher. The need gets bigger. The future is truly at stake.  Please help us fight this battle for you and the millions …read more

Source: ALTERNET

Avatar of admin

by admin

Why Don't Christians Who Take the Bible Literally Also Think the Earth Is Flat?

April 3, 2014 in Blogs

By Paul Rosenberg, Salon

According to parts of the Bible, the earth is both stationary and flat.


The creationist crowd is in a tithy lately. First there was “Cosmos” — on Fox, no less! —  giving short shrift to everything they hold dear. Then, adding insult to injury, for those paying close attention, long-awaited evidence of the Big Bang arrived.  It’s been a rough few weeks.

But really, if you’re a biblical literalist, it’s been a rough few centuries, or millennia, actually. You see, according to the Bible, the earth is both stationary and flat. Most pointedly, there are at least two passages in which a single point is visible to the whole world (Daniel 4:10-11 and Revelation 1:7), and one (Matthew 4:8) in which the whole world can be seen from a single point — an obvious impossibility unless the earth is flat.

Although the Catholic Church had forced Galileo to recant his work questioning the immobile earth in 1632 — and only pardoned him in 1992 — they did so in part because they were certain the earth was a globe: a globe around which the sun, moon and all other heavenly bodies revolved. Such was the Ptolemaic system, which had dominated Western views for more than a millennium. And yet, the Bible itself reflects a radically different view of the cosmos, one shared by the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians, in which the earth is both stationary and flat. And there is a wide range of scriptural passages to prove it.

The late Robert Schadewald made this point conclusively in “The Flat-Earth Bible,” an article posted on the Web back in 1995.  Schadewald was a former board member and president of the National Center for Science Education, a leader in the fight against creationism and other forms of pseudo-science being pushed into schools. But he was as much an enthusiastic student of fringe or “alternative” science as a source of endless fascination as he was a critic of swallowing it whole.

“When I first became interested in the flat-earthers in the early 1970s, I was surprised to learn that flat-earthism in the English-speaking world is …read more

Source: ALTERNET

Avatar of admin

by admin

Kentucky, Wisconsin Senators Offer Friendly Wager on NCAA Final Four Game

April 3, 2014 in Politics & Elections

Washington, D.C. – Senators Ron Johnson and Tammy Baldwin (WI) today announced a friendly wager with Senators Mitch McConnell and Rand Paul of Kentucky on the outcome of Saturday’s Wisconsin Badgers game in the NCAA basketball Final Four against the University of Kentucky Wildcats. The stakes are a selection of Wisconsin bratwurst and cheese against Kentucky Derby-Pie

Avatar of admin

by admin

Abused and Exploited Temp Workers May Finally Get a Break

April 3, 2014 in Blogs

By Michael Grabell, ProPublica

CA bill would hold companies legally responsible for wage and safety violations of subcontractors and temp agencies.


California could become one of the first states in the nation to hold companies legally responsible for wage and safety violations by their subcontractors and temp agencies if a bill proposed Friday becomes law.

The bill tackles the longstanding complaint of labor leaders that companies can often shirk responsibility for the abuse of workers by hiring them through agencies or contracting with smaller firms.

A ProPublica investigation last year found that temp workers face high rates of wage violations and on-the-job injuries, but rarely have recourse against the brand-name companies whose products they move, pack or assemble. Typically, only the agencies or subcontractors that directly employ workers face fines when something goes wrong, even when fulfilling contracts with larger firms that indirectly control or influence the work conditions.

Unions and other worker advocates say the bill would protect temps and subcontracted workers, such as building janitors, by holding the companies at the top of the supply chain accountable.

“Current law is simply insufficient to protect workers’ rights in the shadows of the subcontracted economy,” Caitlin Vega of the California Labor Federation said in a letter supporting the bill. “This simple rule will incentivize the use of responsible contractors, rather than a race to the bottom.”

California is at least the second state this year to take up bills to protect temporary and subcontracted workers. Earlier this month, a New Hampshire legislator introduced a bill to curb the practice of charging workers fees to be taken in temp agency vans to work for unknown companies. That bill would limit such fees and require agencies to tell workers in writing their wage, the name of the company, the location of the job and the workers’ compensation insurance carrier in case of injury.

At least 10 states currently have laws that regulate temp and day labor agencies in some way. Massachusetts, Illinois, New Jersey and Texas, for example, require them to register with the state. Florida and Georgia limit or prohibit fees they can charge for transportation …read more

Source: ALTERNET

Avatar of admin

by admin

Arm Yourself! Read Breyer's Dissent in McCutcheon v. FEC

April 3, 2014 in Blogs

By Sharon Wraight, Daily Kos

Hopefully, we can push back against the wreckage wrought by Roberts and Co.


Breyer writes in clear English. His arguments (signed with Ginsburg, Sotomayor and Kagan) are as informed and articulate a defense of campaign finance laws as you will find. It's better and more efficient to read him, than to read about him, imho. For the non-lawyers/scholars, just skip over the legal references, detailed case arcana, and anything else that isn't obvious — you'll still get the basic ideas.

If we arm ourselves verbally, we can help push back against the madness wrought by the Roberts/Scalia/Thomas/Alito/Kennedy court. These 5-4 decisions may well be overturned in the future — as has happened in the past with bigger majorities. Teaching ourselves, our children, and our friends and foes alike, will help bring that day closer.  

The following are selections from Breyer's dissent, which begins on page 52 (of 94) in the Supreme Court's PDF file (after Roberts' majority opinion). Breyer writes:

[Roberts, Scalia, Alito, Kennedy & Thomas's] conclusion:

* rests upon its own, not a record-based, view of the facts.

* Its legal analysis is faulty: It misconstrues the nature of the competing constitutional interests at stake.

* It understates the importance of protecting the political integrity of our governmental institutions.

* It creates a loophole that will allow a single individual to contribute millions of dollars to a political party or to a candidate’s campaign. …

Today’s decision eviscerates our Nation’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve.

Breyer continues:
What has this to do with corruption? It has everything to do with corruption.Corruption breaks the constitutionally necessary “chain of communication” between the people and their representatives. It derails the essential speech-to-government-action tie. Where enough money calls the tune, the general public will not be heard. Insofar as corruption cuts the link between political thought and political action, a free marketplace of political ideas loses its point. That is one reason why the Court has stressed the constitutional importance of Congress’ concern that a few large donations not drown out the voices of the many. That is also why the Court …read more

Source: ALTERNET

Avatar of admin

by admin

Video: ‘The Road to Serfdom’ at 70 (Featuring Tom DiLorenzo)

April 3, 2014 in Economics

By Mises Updates

From the panel recorded at the 2014 Austrian Economics Research Conference in Auburn, Alabama, on 20 March 2014.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

Avatar of admin

by admin

The First Amendment’s Protection of Political Speech Extends to Both Donations and Spending

April 3, 2014 in Economics

By Ilya Shapiro

Ilya Shapiro

What kind of bizarro world do we live in where a near majority of Justices of the United States Supreme Court criticizes a First Amendment ruling for being overly concerned with “the individual’s right to engage in political speech”? Where these same jurists instead elevate “the public’s interest in preserving a democratic order in which collective speech matters”? Are these four reactionary horsemen who won’t countenance anti-war protestors, marches against oppressive laws, and other anti-establishment speech-acts? Or perhaps they’re censorious troglodytes inveighing against flag-burning, nude dancing, and other emotion-riling forms of expression?

It turns out no, that this statist-majoritarian cant is the highest explication of so-called “liberal” dissent. We’ve always been at war with Eurasia (at least until those in charge decree that our eternal enemy is Eastasia), etc.

In a truly free society, people should be able to give whatever they want to whomever they choose, including candidates for public office.”

Rubbish. Just as the government can’t limit the number of hours that Oprah broadcasts or issues that The New York Times publishes — lest they “unduly” influence our political system — it can’t restrict the money that someone wants to spend on campaign donations lest he “skew” the marketplace of ideas. Heck, I’ve been part of enough SCOTUSblog symposia that I’m sure glad there’s no federal limit on how much analysis someone can provide on a website that’s read by all the key opinion-making eyeballs!

Despite the alarming five-to-four split among the Justices, McCutcheon is an easy case if you apply well-settled law (let alone the political-speech-protective first principles upon which this nation was founded): (1) Preventing quid pro quo corruption (or the appearance thereof) is the only valid basis for regulating the finance of political campaigns; (2) restrictions on the total amount an individual may donate to candidates and party committees don’t serve that bribery-prevention interest and thus violate the First Amendment; (3) that’s it; case closed.

The only surprise here is that the ruling wasn’t a unanimous rejection of the government’s incredible claim that, somehow, someone who “maxes out” to nine congressional candidates “corrupts the system” by giving more than $1,800 to any others. (Or maybe it’s those nine candidates who are corrupted by the jealous knowledge that they’re no longer unique snowflakes, that their benefactor has Benjamins for literally anyone who agrees with his political positions?—I could never fully grasp the logic.)

In any event, Chief Justice Roberts provided the nut …read more

Source: OP-EDS

Avatar of admin

by admin

Italian Government Cracks Down on Separatists

April 3, 2014 in Economics

By Ryan McMaken

The latest in the Venetian Secession saga, in which the separatists are now “terrorists”:

The authorities accused the 24 separatists of being involved in “terrorism”, “fabrication of weapons of war” and “subversion of the democratic order”.

The activists were part of a “secessionist group that was planning various initiatives, some of them violent, aimed at pushing for the independence of Veneto and other parts of the national territory of the Italian State,” the paramilitary Carabinieri said.

Apparently, a few separatists made a “makeshift cannon” and a homemade “tank” which, were a grave threat to national security.

More here and here.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE

Avatar of admin

by admin

We Don’t Need “Animal Spirits” to Understand Economics

April 3, 2014 in Economics

By Mises Updates

6713

Per Bylund writes in today’s Mises Daily: 

At least Aziz here acknowledges where economics went wrong: John Maynard Keynes. Getting “better” here translates to doing more of the type of cheap psychological and mathematical analyses that psychologists and mathematicians would be embarrassed to even consider. And, of course, constructing indices of aggregates of what is not “easily quantifiable” appears to be completely unproblematic to Aziz. Just like the “gut decisions” that we somehow need to understand to figure out the economy.

It is perhaps interesting to understand what sort of “gut decisions” made people purchase blue rather than green sweaters on that one sunny day, but it is rather irrelevant for the fact that quantity demanded of blue sweaters increased and that of green sweaters decreased — and that this caused changes to relative prices, the production structure, etc.

…read more

Source: MISES INSTITUTE