Sunday, December 18, 2016

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Ben Tarnoff discusses the two winners - and the many losers - created by the spread of neoliberalism:
Neoliberalism can mean many things, including an economic program, a political project, and a phase of capitalism dating from the 1970s. At its root, however, neoliberalism is the idea that everything should be run as a business – that market metaphors, metrics, and practices should permeate all fields of human life.

No industry has played a larger role in evangelizing the neoliberal faith than Silicon Valley. Its entrepreneurs are constantly coming up with new ways to make more of our lives into markets. A couple of decades ago, staying in touch with friends wasn’t a source of economic value – now it’s the basis for a $350bn company. Our photo albums, dating preferences, porn habits, and most random and banal thoughts have all become profitable data sets, mined for advertising revenue. We are encouraged to see ourselves as pieces of human capital that must ceaselessly enhance our value – optimizing our feeds and profiles, hustling for follows and likes and swipes.
Yet if Trump personifies neoliberal ideas, his victory also reflects a revolt against neoliberal policies. The uncaged capitalism fostered by neoliberalism has produced an era of spiraling inequality, stagnant wages, declining life expectancy, and an increasingly post-democratic political system that is more or less openly oligarchic. These things make people angry, and Trump used that anger to get himself elected.

The irony is that Trump will only intensify the crisis that put him in power. His cure for the social catastrophe of neoliberalism is a stronger strain of neoliberalism. Trump is like a lunatic doctor who, after a treatment has nearly killed his patient, decides to double the dose in the hopes of a better result.

Whether we survive depends on the political struggle ahead: not only in the streets and statehouses, but at the level of ideas. Defeating neoliberalism will require not just the creation of a movement, but the creation of a new common sense. At its heart must be the belief that democracy is a better way to organize society than markets – that some things are not for sale.
- Alex Tabarrok points out a new study showing the rapidly-diminishing returns on research within industries. And it's worth noting what that discovery means for our overall economic organization: first, we can expect better returns directing our efforts toward new fields rather than trying to prop up existing ones; and second, to the extent we've already harvested the low-hanging fruit in most current industries, we may need to focus our economic discussion more on distribution than growth.

- Meanwhile, Bruce Campion-Smith reports on PIPSC's success in negotiating a right for federally-employed scientists to share their research.

- Sherri Borden Colley reports on the difficulty social assistance recipients in Nova Scotia have making ends meet on insufficient benefits. And Iglika Ivanova writes that we should rely far less on private charity to meet basic needs, and instead use the collective power of government to ensure nobody is forced to live in poverty.

- Finally, John Whyte offers some suggestions to build a stronger participatory democracy in Saskatchewan.

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