Saturday, October 08, 2016

Saturday Morning Links

Assorted content for your weekend reading.

- Jim Stanford writes about the obvious problems with globalization as it's currently structured - and the need to meaningfully take into account the public interest before anybody other than the investor class can be expected to participate in the process:
The reality is that hundreds of millions of people across the developed world (and in many developing countries, too) have been hurt by globalization as presently practised: whereby mobile private companies decide what to produce and where, and every jurisdiction can only bow down to business in hopes of capturing a slice of scarce investment and jobs.

We must remember that the economic theory underpinning free trade assumes that all resources (including all workers) will be productively employed, that trade flows will be balanced and mutually beneficial, and that the efficiency gains from trade will be shared throughout society. In the quantitative economic models routinely trotted out to “sell” each new trade deal, these assumptions are embodied in mathematical equations imposing full employment, balanced trade and the existence of a “representative household” (portraying each country as one big family, happily sharing all its wealth). None of these assumptions has any connection to reality; they are all imposed for the mathematical (and ideological) convenience of the economists.
Going to those devastated communities, the fodder for Brexit and Mr. Trump, and telling them they aren’t really unemployed, and are in fact better off than they think they are, will hardly turn the tide of this debate. If we want to avoid the isolationism, xenophobia and worse that Mr. Trump and his ilk portend, we must start by recognizing that there is indeed a downside to free trade.

Acknowledging that modern free trade produces losers as well as winners allows us to start developing and implementing policies to moderate those downsides – and purposely share the upsides. This means actively managing trade flows, limiting beggar-thy-neighbour trade surpluses, supporting incomes for all workers, ensuring sensible and fair exchange rates, and actively fostering domestic investment in desirable, trade-intensive industries.

All this implies a much bigger role for government in managing globalization than free-traders imagine. But it would be an infinitely more effective response to the gathering backlash, than trying to convince suffering people that they have nothing to complain about.
- Owen Jones highlights the need for Labour (like other progressive parties) to offer a voice to the working class - particularly given the dangers of allowing real insecurity to provide an opening for false populists. And Chris Kahn identifies a contrast in views about avoiding taxes as a key fault line between the likes of Donald Trump and the people whose votes could bring them to power.

- Richard Kozul-Wright weighs in on the problems with an economy built to enrich executives and shareholders at the expense of society at large. And Sara Mojtehedzadeh discusses the importance of workers' rights in the face of employer efforts to make employees' lives more precarious. 

- Brendan Haley points out that Nova Scotia's knee-jerk resistance to a federal carbon price was utterly misguided. Bruce Johnstone informs Brad Wall that a climate obstructionist has no credibility when it comes to criticizing any attempt to solve a global problem. Andrew Coyne observes that the Libs' actual announcement was a modest one. And Toby Sanger offers plenty of suggestions as to how to address any complaints about the effect of a carbon price.

- Finally, Cory Doctorow writes that the Libs' supposed consultation on security policy has turned into little more than a sales pitch for total surveillance. And Alison Crawford notes that a roundtable on the community effects of security policy has been left behind even as the state has become more intrusive over the past couple of years.

Friday, October 07, 2016

Musical interlude

Moist - Leave It Alone

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Alex Himelfarb and Trish Hennessy offer their take as to what we should expect out of Ontario's basic income experiment:
Critics rightly argue that basic income is no magic bullet, that indeed there are no magic bullets. The history of the idea of basic income shows it’s no passing fad, but translating it into action can easily get mired in the muck of consultations, delays, poor execution or, most likely, inadequate funding.

That said, the Ontario experiment may be just the kind of jolt we need to break the mould; an important opportunity to reimagine the future of social and labour market policy. It gives us a chance to see how income provided unconditionally could give poor Ontarians greater autonomy and the breathing room to find their way out of poverty.

But more than that, it allows us to ask how our tax and transfer system, social services, and labour policies can be made to work together to achieve greater equity and social justice in these changing times.

The basic income experiment forces us to ask the right questions: how do we ensure all Canadians have access to the essentials, that all can live in dignity regardless of job status, that all have sufficient income so none need live in poverty?

Thinking of basic income in those terms, less as a single program and more as a set of objectives for all governments, changes the frame, shifts expectations and gives us a chance to address issues that have been ignored for too long, from the inadequacy and inefficiency of social assistance to how best to ensure a living wage.
 - Nick Hanauer points out that decades of experience in the U.S. show there's no truth to the threat that a fair minimum wage will result in a loss of jobs. And Don Pittis writes that a more equal economy is demonstrably producing improved growth in countries who look beyond the interests of shareholders alone.

- S.E. Smith discusses how privatization can increase the cost of delivering public services as social programs have to pick up the slack for exploitative corporate employers.

- Lee Berthiaume evaluates Brad Wall's carbon price posturing and finds it to consist of "a lot of baloney". And Adam Vaughan reports that methane emissions from the fossil fuel industry are far higher than previously assumed, making its contribution to climate change all the worse.

- Finally, John Paul Tasker reports on the Libs' choice not to start closing the funding gap for First Nations education even after being presented with a plan to keep their promise to do so.

Thursday, October 06, 2016

New column day

Here, on how the Libs' carbon price rollout managed to maximize the resulting sound and fury while signifying little actual progress.

For further reading...
- Marc Lee offered a reality check on the minimal effect of Justin Trudeau's price announcement, with reference to Marc Jaccard's study here (PDF). And Karri Munn-Venn also pointed out how a small carbon price falls short of what we need to rein in Canada's contribution to catastrophic climate change.
- Meanwhile, Bruce Cheadle reported on the disruption Trudeau caused to the meeting of Canada's environment ministers - even if Murray Mandryk was right to note that Brad Wall is utterly without credibility in complaining that his own obstruction isn't stopping all progress. And Aaron Wherry commented on the political fallout from the timing of Trudeau's announcement.
- Finally, Bill McKibben wrote about the current state of the climate, while George Monbiot commented here on the need to stop developing new fossil fuel projects.

Wednesday, October 05, 2016

Wednesday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material for your mid-week reading.

- Dani Rodrik suggests that instead of engaging in extended hand-wringing over the collapse of public interest in corporate trade deals, we should instead be working on strengthening domestic social contracts:
The frustrations of the middle and lower classes today are rooted in the perception that political elites have placed the priorities of the global economy ahead of domestic needs. Addressing the discontent will require that this perception is reversed.

If progressive tax policies to reduce inequality are impeded by the mobility of corporations around the world, it should be the latter that gives way, not the former. If countercyclical fiscal and monetary policies are precluded by short-term capital flows, it is finance that should be regulated.

If industrial policies to diversify developing economies are precluded by World Trade Organisation rules, it is trade rules that should be reformed. If domestic labour standards are eroded due to international competition with countries where workers have few rights, it is trade that should bear the brunt.

If foreign investors ask for special protections that shield them from the domestic legal system, the answer should be no. Above all, politicians should stop hiding behind globalisation. The case for structural reforms and other policies should be made on their own merits, rather than because of some putative need to “compete” in global markets.
- Matt Elliott points out the obvious problems in relying on magical assumptions that the private sector can alter the costs of providing necessary public services. And Robert Reich notes that Donald Trump's tax avoidance should offer an important lesson about a tax system designed to further enrich people who already have access to giant pools of money.

- Bill McKibben writes that a charm offensive won't do anything to change the inexorable math of climate change. And David Roberts rightly argues that governments around the globe are falling far short of the level of urgency needed to keep their climate commitments.

- Finally, Thomas Walkom offers his take on the similarities between the Trudeau Libs and the Harper Cons. And Tom Parkin points out how Justin Trudeau is betraying the progressive voters who helped him take power.

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Tuesday Night Cat Blogging

Supported cats.

Tuesday Morning Links

This and that for your Tuesday reading.

- David Boyle discusses how the principle of free trade - once intended to empower consumers against monopolies - is instead being used to lock in corporate control:
(T)he original idea of free trade was not a simple licence to do whatever you wanted, if you were rich and powerful enough. It was designed as a means of liberation – so that the small could challenge the big, the poor could challenge the rich with the power of a new approach, an alternative provider, an imaginative, liberating shift. It was an antidote to the old pattern that employers could control not just what you were paid, but also what you paid for the things you needed to live.

But recent decades have seen this central liberal economic doctrine become its own opposite – permission for the rich to ride roughshod over the poor, an apologia for monopoly and an extractive discipline that prevents the all-important challenge from below. It became instead a potential tool of enslavement.
Friedman argued that intellectual property was a kind of property, and must be defended as such, rather than – as it actually is – a temporary suspension of free trade to encourage innovation. That is why draft agreements such as the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which purport to be about free trade, are actually about defending investments and trademarks.

Even more seriously, Friedman argued that monopoly didn’t matter, and – if it did happen – it was the fault of the government for over-regulating.

The first error led to the great heresy of neoliberalism, that corporations should be treated like human beings in legal terms. The second was a rejection of the most fundamental element in liberal economics, a defence against the over-concentration of market power. It was the very opposite of liberal free trade.

It explains why the dead hand of neoliberal orthodoxy has ignored monopolies as a problem as they grow in power over our lives, as we fall into the tyrannical clutches of companies we are virtually forced to buy from...
- Dylan Matthews writes about the state of poverty around the world - including the observation that poverty levels are essentially a matter of choice in the developed world where it can readily be ended through redistribution. Owen Jones highlights why the UK has every reason to be embarrassed about the needless obstacles it's putting in the way of children, while David Tran comments on the difficulties of trying to build a life in the absence of any margin for error. And Gil McGowan points out how an increased minimum wage results in real benefits for people getting by on low incomes.

- Meanwhile, Kristy Kirkup reports that the Libs' idea of complying with an order to stop discriminating against First Nations children has been to add precisely nothing to a budgeting process started when the Cons were still in power.

- Wendy Levinson comments on the growing recognition that parts of our health care system are biased toward unnecessary testing and treatment.

- Michael Vonn points out that C-51's draconian anti-speech provisions may make it far more difficult to carry out any meaningful work against radicalization. And Andrew Mitrovica talks to Paul Cavalluzzo about the glaring flaws in both C-51 and C-22.

- Finally, Gerry Caplan recognizes that Justin Trudeau's media honeymoon is coming to an end. And Steve Paikin points out that Ontario's NDP may soon have its best opportunity in ages in a provincial election campaign.

Monday, October 03, 2016

Monday Morning Links

Miscellaneous material to start your week.

- Larry Elliott writes that the public is rightly frustrated with an economic model designed to shift money to those who already have the most - and that progressive parties in particular need to offer a meaningful alternative:
The belief on the left was that 2008 sounded the death knell for the model of capitalism that dominated the last quarter of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st; one based around privatisation, trickle-down economics, and a shift in the balance of power away from organised labour and towards international banks. Lehman’s bankruptcy would prove to be the equivalent of the Opec oil shock of 1973, the moment the pendulum swung, only this time from right to left.

It didn’t work out like that. There was no social democratic moment because social democratic parties had largely bought into the idea that markets knew best. They had no critique of what had gone wrong so they lacked a strategy to put things right. What’s more, they still don’t, which is why challenges to Jeremy Corbyn from his Labour party rivals have been so feeble.
Hence the appetite among voters for controls. Ask them whether they support a financial transactions tax and they answer yes. Ask them whether they support curbs on the dumping of cheap Chinese steel that is threatening jobs in Port Talbot and they answer yes. Ask them if they want controls on immigration and they answer yes.

In this, the public shows more consistency than the politicians. Conservative Brexiters are in favour of free movement of capital and goods, but not of people. The Labour party is up for controls on money and goods but supports free movement of labour. The freedoms integral to globalisation are increasingly at odds with democracy. Something has to give.

In the introduction to a recently published book of essays*, Michael Jacobs and Mariana Mazzucato say that the state has a crucial role to play in making economies more prosperous and successful, not least through the role the state can play in nurturing and supporting innovation. This runs counter to the idea that governments should limit themselves to correcting occasional and short-lived market failure, but as Jacobs and Mazzucato rightly note markets are the result of political decisions.
- Meanwhile, Nicolas Yan highlights the need to ensure that the gains from automation in particular don't get captured by a lucky few. And Mazzucato offers a list of suggestions as to how to put the power of the state to use in building shared wealth.

- Lana Payne rightly argues that anybody wanting to see a progressive trade agenda should be fighting against the entrenchment of corporate power through the Trans-Pacific Partnership.

- George Wehby, Dhaval Dave and Robert Kaestner examine the effect of the minimum wage on infant health, and find a substantive improvement where wages are more livable. And Daniel Boffey points out that increased reliance on student loans rather than direct funding for post-secondary education results in worsened inequality.

- Finally, Aaron Wherry points out that Canada's federal government has long had estimates available as to the social cost of greenhouse gas emissions; it's just done nothing to ensure those costs are internalized. And Naomi Klein discusses how the "othering" of the people bearing the largest burden of climate change is producing disastrous environmental and social consequences.

Sunday, October 02, 2016

Sunday Morning Links

This and that for your Sunday reading.

- Mary O'Hara notes that even a relatively modest and incomplete set of progressive policies has created some important movement toward reducing poverty. And conversely, Caroline Mortimer writes that child poverty is exploding under the Conservative majority government in the UK.

- Dean Beeby reports on the cause of delays and cost overruns in federally-funding First Nations projects - with the federal government's own neglect serving as the main culprit. And David Akin points out that aboriginal leaders are justifiably losing patience with a Liberal government which talks about reconciliation while acting to dismiss or silence First Nations' voices.

- Meanwhile, Julia Lurie discusses the consistent pattern of U.S. minority populations being forced to lived with toxic air and water.

- Melanie Evans highlights how doctors are increasingly tracking social factors in order to offer better care to patients. And Barb Pacholik points out Sean Tucker's research showing that existing data is plenty to demonstrate that Saskatchewan stands out for its unsafe workplaces.

- Carly Weeks reports on a new study showing the connection between drug regulators and the pharmaceutical industry. And Michael Butler asks why big pharma is being granted a prominent place in shaping the future of health care in Canada.

- The BBC reports on a hedge fund's bribery in multiple African countries to take over mining and investment rights. 

- Finally, Kathleen O'Connor makes her case for proportional electoral reform and more as part of a more citizen-centred democracy.