Friday, October 20, 2017

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Edward Harrison comments on the business-backed push to rebrand corporate control and crony capitalism as freedom. And Ryan Cooper points out that the concept of deregulation ultimately serves only to concentrate power in the hands of the wealthy few:
Government regulations can be good or bad. But for the most part, there is no such thing as no regulation at all. If government does not make those choices, then other businesses — Wall Street, most especially — will do it for them.

As an initial matter, it's important to remember that government "interference" in markets goes far beyond the usual regulatory agencies. Indeed, government creates markets, through property law, corporate law, securities law, labor law, and so on. These institutions generally get less attention from free-market types (who like to pretend that markets are some pre-political, freestanding entity), but the fact is that markets as we know them could not possibly exist without a strong state.

But when it comes to more traditional regulation, business decisions are for starters often constrained by market choices — and these almost always cut against the interest of workers.
Wall Street firms, like almost all corporations, are hierarchical, authoritarian, command-and-control organizations. (Indeed, as economist Brad DeLong wrote back in 1997, they are rather similar to the old Soviet economy in terms of structure.) These are the companies that are, by and large, writing the rules for how American business is conducted today. Everything from how much workers are paid, to how much companies will spend on innovative research, to what sort of products will be offered and precisely how they will be built — these are now under the strong influence of Wall Street, which demands quick and easy profits above every other consideration. The results are often just as bad as the most sclerotic government regulator — except this time, you can't call up your congressman and complain.

It's long since time the American people put their corporations back under democratic control.
- And Corey Robin discusses how hierarchical organizations make it difficult for anybody to jeopardize their individual positions by pointing out systemic abuses.

- Damian Carrington reports on the Lancet Commission's study showing that air pollution is responsible for 9 million deaths every year - and that its effects may only get worse.

- Meanwhile, Chris Arsenault reports on Nestle's continued extraction of water from two Ontario towns after its permits have expired.

- Finally, Tricia Wood makes the case for free public transit on the basis that mobility should be treated as a social good.

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