Friday, February 14, 2014

Friday Morning Links

Assorted content to end your week.

- Jim Stanford discusses how unions and collective bargaining improve the standard of living for everybody:
The following figure illustrates the broad negative correlation between bargaining coverage and poverty: that is, the higher is bargaining coverage, the lower is relative poverty (and the more equal is income distribution). (It differs slightly from the simple scatter plot in the Unifor PowerPoint show because I have obtained one more update of each of the series.) Low-unionization high-poverty countries are grouped tightly in the top left (including Mexico, the U.S., Turkey, Japan, and Korea). High-unionization low-poverty countries are grouped tightly in the bottom right (including several countries in continental Europe and Scandinavia with near-universal bargaining coverage). The rest of the OECD countries form a broad cloud between those two poles, with much variation but still a clear negative correlation.

I think it is reasonable on this basis to make the following conclusion: Collective bargaining (rooted in unions and labour law) has a very important impact in reducing inequality and relative poverty. Differences in collective bargaining coverage explain about one-third of the differences in relative poverty across most of the industrialized world.
- Meanwhile, Jared Bernstein duly mocks the business spin that it's difficult to find workers willing to accept pitiful wages and working conditions. And Andrew Oswald and Nattavudh Powdthavee help to explain the origins of the apparent belief that wealth is equivalent to an entitlement to exploit others, finding a strong increase in anti-social attitudes and self-entitlement among lottery winners who plainly didn't acquire their wealth by merit:
In our data set, many hundreds of individuals serendipitously receive significant lottery windfalls. We find that the larger is their lottery win, the greater is that person’s subsequent tendency, after controlling for other influences, to switch their political views from left to right. We also provide evidence that lottery winners are more sympathetic to the belief that ordinary people ‘already get a fair share of society’s wealth’.
- Helaine Olen points out the furious lobbying by U.S. banks against the same type of postal bank proposal which would make eminent sense to strengthen Canada Post - signalling that the threat facing Canada's mail system might likewise trace back to the financial sector's desire to exploit residents who have little access to services.

- Andrew Nikiforuk writes about the continuing bitumen seepage from Alberta's tar sands. And the Chicago Tribune reports on yet another rail oil spill, this time in Pennsylvania.

- Finally, Karl Nerenberg notes that the Cons are lashing out against more and more perceived enemies as their stay in office continues. And Sarah Boon wonders whether Canada has gone too far done the Cons' anti-reason rabbit hole to turn back.

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