Wednesday, January 06, 2016

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Mariana Mazzucato comments on the need for the public sector to play a significant and direct role in sustainable economic development:
The debate about the relative roles of the state and the market in capitalist economies tends to swing from side to side in the hearts and minds of public opinion: periods when the state is defended for its role in economic development are always superseded by an attack on its intervention into ‘well functioning’ markets. It has been like this throughout the twentieth century. And it is what has happened since the most recent global financial crisis and economic recession: a brief period right after its outbreak, when there was consensus that the state had a key role to play in both saving the banks and using fiscal policy to promote growth, was quickly apprehended by those who feared rising levels of public debt. Indeed, this debt was mistakenly seen as the cause rather than the result of the crisis—due to lower tax receipts, rising bailouts, etc. So austerity became again the flavour of the day, while any sort of serious economic and industrial policy became anathema.

What is missing from the public perception is how through the history of modern capitalism, the state has done, and continues to do, what markets simply won’t. This is not about its role in simply fixing ‘market failures’, but its role in directly shaping and creating markets.
Key to Italy’s future is to get rid of the static public versus private sector debate. Both sectors are crucial. The question is how to promote synergetic partnerships which allow the public sector, in its engagement with the private sector, to remain courageous, strategic and set the direction of change, rather than only de-risking, facilitating, administering, subsidizing and incentivising. Whether we are looking at education, health, transport, culture, renewable energy or the future of micro-electronics, the problem should not be ‘opening up to the market’...but how to structure and shape the market, through public and private investments, in such a way that allows a sector to become more dynamic, innovative and investment driven. Instead, because we pretend that investment is for the private sector, and the public sector is there to only regulate, subsidize or save the day when things go wrong (bringing into the public sector the ‘bad’ toxic side of the equation, allowing the ‘good’ to be absorbed privately), this leads to a self-fulfilling prophecy where precisely because we don’t see a real ‘public role’ beyond, it becomes under financed, but also under “imagined”. When a sector lacks imagination, it dies. It becomes irrelevant, and of course easier to attack. This vicious cycle is happening in Italy’s public sector and it is contributing to its demise.
- Michael Hiltzik discusses the connection between the obsession with short-term share values and the increasing precarity of work, while Andrew Callaway writes that workers are getting little but instability from a "sharing" economy. And Jonathon Gatehouse reports on the growing chasm between Canadian CEOs and the rest of us - as well as the fact that we're likely underestimating that gap to begin with.

- Jeremy Nuttall notes that new federal funding announcements for export development figure to pale in comparison to the harm done by the Trans-Pacific Partnership and other trade deals. And Michael Geist is writing a new series on the harms done by the TPP in particular.

- Meanwhile, Robert Fife breaks the news that rather than seriously examining the impact of handing perpetually more power to the corporate sector, the Libs are instead bent on signing an even more restrictive deal with China than the one the Cons signed onto a year ago.

- Finally, Ralph Surette points out the need to progress from a mere statement of intentions to actual, global-scale action to rein in greenhouse gas emissions and limit the effect of climate change.

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