Saturday, July 11, 2015

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Aditya Chakrabortty exposes the massive amounts of money gifted from the UK's public purse to its corporate elite. And Paul Weinberg writes that the Cons are only exacerbating Canada's practice of encouraging revenue leakage into tax havens:
The United States, European Union and several other Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development nations are grappling with the contagion of tax avoidance by global companies, with its potential to hurt government finances. But, as Deneault discovered in researching his book, Canada is marching to a different beat.

“Officially, Canada shows solidarity with other western countries about tackling tax avoidance. I have informants in other countries, people whom I talk to when I travel, and they say that Canada, in the meeting rooms, is also always fighting against any kind of proposal that would make it difficult for corporations to use tax havens,” he says in a recent interview. Deneault highlights how Canada, as a major player at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, provides representation for smaller nations in the English-speaking Caribbean (The Bahamas and Barbados) and Ireland that do not have seats at either of these bodies, and which, incidentally, happen to be major havens.

“Canada is trying to look like its creatures (tax havens) to have the same strategies to attract capital,” says Deneault. “You will find that in Alberta with respect to oil, you will find that in Ontario with respect to the mining industry.”...
Real tax reform, he maintains, begins with examining how Canada has morphed into a tax haven itself, with exceptionally low corporate tax policies at the federal and provincial levels, and a number of legal loopholes that allow corporations and wealthy investors to avoid paying their fair contribution to Canada’s social wealth.
- Meanwhile, David Dayen notes that as part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the U.S. (along with Canada) is signing on to standardizing labour standards with countries which have active human trafficking and effective slavery.

- Simon Houpt discusses the unionization of digital media. And Ella Bedard writes that Canadian unions will be fighting the Cons' attacks both in this fall's election campaign and through the courts.

- Ralph Surette points out that after being muzzled for a decade, Canada's civil servants are starting to offer long-suppressed facts about the Cons' abuses of power.

- Finally, Scott Santens writes that a basic income could both serve as a much-needed link between productivity gains and the sharing of prosperity, and reduce the amount of work needed from people who are being pushed into more than they want:
We are indeed creating new jobs, but these jobs are not 1:1 replacements. When someone who graduated from a free high school loses a 40 hours per week manufacturing job with benefits they've worked for 20 years that paid $50,000 per year because technology has eliminated the need for a human to fill that role, and the only job they can find without taking out a second mortgage to go back to school is a 30 hours per week temp job without benefits in the service industry that pays $20,000 per year if they're lucky, they've indeed gone from one job to another, but are they better off? Is the consumer economy better off with the notable hit to consumer spending power? Does the fact that robotic manufacturing allows this person to buy a dishwasher for $500 instead of $700 counteract the $30,000 loss in salary and security? Does the ability to purchase an iPhone 6 for the same price they paid for an iPhone 3 a few years ago make up for that loss in income either?

Advancing technology is not being allowed to improve our lives to the degree it could, if we were to make other decisions as a society. Instead, we're actively forcing ourselves to work a greater number of hours thanks to the effectiveness of the tools we created to require fewer hours. Does this outcome make any real sense? Is all this new and extra work in the labor market truly necessary or are we performing it because a job, however unnecessary is currently necessary to live?
If technology has reached the point where hardware and software are together doing much of our work for us, then we have to pay each other what our technology is not earning as income and not spending into the economy as a consumer. We have to give it to ourselves and spend it ourselves, because our technology is not going to. This can be thought of as a technological dividend required to upshift our economy instead of letting it slowly grind to a halt, and it's more widely known as the idea of basic income.

We need to make sure everyone starts earning a non-work related income so that everyone can be consumers in an economy increasingly populated by non-consuming non-human labor. By doing this, we will also be transforming all work into voluntary work, and see all the effects this makes possible from the economic growth of increased engagement to the higher wages of increased individual bargaining power.

If we take that path, the basic income path, then we can automate even more labor away and grow the basic income even further as productivity reaches new heights.


  1. While I favour a basic income, it seems to me that there's a part of that last article that's pushing consumerism no matter what in an economy that might instead be made less dependent on consumerism, at a time when consumerism is helping to consume the planet.

    1. A fair concern for sure. But I'd think the article is best read as being neutral at worst on the question of what should be produced and consumed as productivity increases (the composition of the GDP gains). And we shouldn't be any worse off from a resource and environmental standpoint if greater efficiency in the production of goods is taken as an opportunity to shift more labour (paid or voluntary) into non-polluting intellectual and service activities.