Competing Visions in Economics as a Social Science: A Primer | David Fields
Analysis | January 7th, 2015
Economics (indeed every discipline of the social sciences) has never been, and never will be, value-free. Social scientists have always relied, and will continue to rely, on sets of elaborate positions, perceptions, and views about the ultimate nature of reality; essentially, it is the reliance on preconceived notions of how the world works, and how it should work, when analyzing manifest phenomena. Aspects of conscientiousness precede investigation and thus one cannot separate the knowing mind from the object inquiry. What constitutes a fact perceives the observation and hence the conception of what is determined as socially significant; the mind is active in constructing and determining the lens through which observation deciphers what of social phenomena is worthy of factuality.
Paying Up: The Problems with Payday Loans | Devon Douglas-Bowers
Commentary | December 31st, 2014
Despite what the talking heads are saying, the economy isn't doing so well. With this most recent jobs report, the two main sectors of growth were fast food and retail, accounting for a total of about 32.2% of jobs created in October. In part, due to low-paying jobs, many are using payday loans to get by and unfortunately when it comes time to pay up, many are paying much more than what they borrowed due to extremely high interest rates. While this has been bought up in the mainstream every now and then, rarely has anyone taken a look how payday loans came into existence and the type of havoc they wreak on people, mainly the poor. We need to realize that payday loans only harm us and explore alternatives.
Zombie Apocalypse and the Politics of Artificial Scarcity | Colin Jenkins
Commentary | December 19th, 2014
Dystopian narratives have long been an alluring and thought-provoking form of entertainment, especially for those who take an interest in studying social and political structures. From classics like Nineteen Eighty-Four and Brave New World to the current hit, The Hunger Games, these stories play on our fears while simultaneously serving as warning signs for the future. Their attractiveness within American society is not surprising. Our lives are driven by fear. Fear leads us to spend and consume; fear leads us to withdraw from our communities; and fear leads us to apathy regarding our own social and political processes.
Teaching Ferguson, Teaching Capital: Slavery and the "Terrorist Energy" of Capital | Curry Malott and Derek R. Ford
Analysis | December 19th, 2014
Critical education harnesses the present moment, looks to history to grasp the forces determining the present, and links it with social struggles in an effort to push the configuration of the present beyond its breaking point. Given the recent non-indictments of killer cops Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo, critical educators across the U.S. and the globe are bringing the pressing topics of police brutality, state violence, and people's resistance movements into the classroom. In this essay, we contribute to these efforts by arguing that the deadly and unpunished police violence against African Americans requires not only an awareness of slavery, but an analysis of the relationship between capitalism and slavery, and the subsequent subsumption of racism and white supremacy within capitalism.
A Review of "The Endless Crisis: How Monopoly-Finance Capital Produces Stagnation and Upheaval from the USA to China" by John Bellamy Foster & Robert W. McChesney | David Fields
Book Review | December 11th, 2014
The Monthly Review, since its inception, has been carrying on some of the best works in radical political economy. Economists Paul Baran, Paul Sweezy, and Harry Magdoff set out the analytical foundations of what has come to be called the Monthly Review School. Karl Marx, having written in the nineteenth century, wrote about a particular phase of capitalism, which was predicated less on oligopolies than today, although it was moving in that direction. In the best tradition of a historical-materialist approach, which seeks to understand the world as dynamic, rather than static, Monthly Review writers have realized that the organization of capitalism has changed. While the general driving force, the structural imperatives of increased expansion and accumulation of capitalism remains, the way it goes about doing so is inherently different.
The Silent Success of Cooperatives in the Bolivarian Revolution | Dada Maheshvarananda
Analysis | December 3rd, 2014
Solidarity, cooperation, and community empowerment are socialist values promoted by the Bolivarian Revolution in contrast to the individualism and selfishness promoted by the corporate-owned mass media. Cooperatives are quietly transforming people's values in Venezuela, and the rest of the world, though they have been mostly ignored by the mass media and by many political leaders, too. The International Cooperative Alliance defines a cooperative as "an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise." Worker cooperatives develop trust, solidarity, and teamwork.
The Great Recession, Six Years Later: Uneven Recovery, Flawed Indicators, and a Struggling Working Class | Colin Jenkins
Analysis | November 5th, 2014
In July of this year, Barack Obama boasted of an impressive recovery the US has undertaken since the Great Recession of 2008, proclaiming, "We've recovered faster and come farther than almost any other advanced country on Earth." To support this claim, the White House released a report showing that, out of 12 countries identified as "advanced" (France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Ukraine, United Kingdom and United States), the United States is "one of only two (the other being Germany) that experienced systemic financial crises in 2007 and 2008 but have seen real (gross domestic product) per working-age person return to pre-crisis levels."
The Dow Jones Industrial Average: A Fata Morgana | Wim Grommen
Analysis | October 24th, 2014
The Dow Jones Industrial Average (DJIA) Index is the only stock market index that covers both the second and the third industrial revolution. Calculating share indexes such as the DJIA and showing this index in a historical graph is a useful way to show which phase the industrial revolution is in. Changes in the DJIA shares basket, changes in the formula and stock splits during the take-off phase and acceleration phase of industrial revolutions are perfect transition-indicators. The similarities of these indicators during the last two revolutions are fascinating, but also a reason for concern. In fact, the graph of the DJIA is a classic example of fictional truth, a fata morgana.
Questioning Capitalism: Extreme Wealth, Inequality, and the Future | Mark Weiser
Commentary | October 17th, 2014
The economy is not nearly as complex as Wall Street economists and the US government would have you believe. When discussing the economy, we're often talking about things that are not tangible in themselves but rather some very basic cause and effect relationships which affect the conditions and overall health of the economy at any given time. It's important to understand how these cause and effect relationships interplay with each other, and that certain conditions must occur before certain other things can happen. It's impossible to discuss one aspect of the economy without discussing others and how they influence each other. So the goal here is to key in on one or two cause and effect relationships.
Raking In On Rents: The Housing Crisis Begins Anew | Devon Douglas-Bowers
Analysis | October 7th, 2014
Wall Street wrecked the economy in 2007 due to dealing in shady mortgage securities that were given dubious triple-A ratings and put the entire global economy on the brink. Do you think those big banksters learned their lesson and decided not to dabble in overly complex financial instruments and to stop deceiving people? The answer is, of course, a resounding no. Not only have the bankers escaped punishment for nearly destroying the economy, along with millions of lives, they are now involving themselves in the rental arena and may create another financial crisis in the process.
Argentine Default, Vulture Funds, the Debt Business, and You | Nicholas Partyka
Analysis | September 26th, 2014
If you're not terribly interested in financial news or world affairs, then you might have missed the story of Argentina's default at the end of July. If you're a casual news reader you probably came across at least a headline informing you of the fact that Argentina had defaulted on its debt again. The event itself received some, if not a lot, of coverage in the dominant US media. Most everyone carried a story about Argentina being declared to be in "selective default" by Standard & Poor's. Most of these articles made sure to point out, in some more or less subtle fashion, that this is not Argentina's first time defaulting on its debts. Most also made sure to insinuate, if not unequivocally declare, that all the trouble is Argentina's fault, that poor economic management by Argentine policy makers is wholly to blame.
Capitalism's Built-In Limitations and Anti-Stimulus Realities | Mark Weiser
Analysis | August 27th, 2014
Capitalism has always been sold as the best way for the greatest number of people to benefit from their own labor. I would agree that was true enough for a good number of men of European decent over most of our U.S. history. When Adam Smith, the "father of capitalism" was alive in the 1700s, the world was thought to be infinite with an unlimited supply of natural resources waiting to be discovered and forged into useful tangible consumables. As we now know the world's resources are not infinite, and we can correctly deduce that capitalism is limited by the amount of available resources. Capitalism also requires someone, or a group, to save "capital" before investing or embarking on a capitalist venture. However, saving money or "capital," whether temporarily or continuously, is actually an anti-stimulus with the given limitations in a finite capitalist economy.
Finding Alternatives to Greed and Dismantling Our Right-Wing World | Ming Chun Tang
Commentary | July 9th, 2014
Human history has been almost entirely dominated by the right-wing worldview. It's been an endless cycle in which privileged groups have taken turns dominating each other in a seemingly eternal battle between the powerful and the powerless. From the imperial conquests of the ancient world through European colonialism, the two World Wars and Soviet communism to modern neoliberal capitalism, it's always been the same story, flowing through different chapters but reaching the same inevitable conclusion: Oligarchy. It's a story familiar to the Zapatistas as well as countless other sites of confrontation between the haves and the have-nots in recent years. The hierarchical, conflict-ridden relationship today between those who rule the world and those who are ruled, between corporate bosses and workers, between autocrats and their citizens, between the rich and the poor, is a continuation of this cycle of domination.
The Gold Myth and Commodity Money: Ancient Scams of Historical Proportions | Richard Posner
Commentary | June 25th, 2014
Can someone please give me a sane reason why anyone would pay over a thousand dollars for an ounce of shiny metal that has virtually no intrinsic value? Or, better still, how about scientifically verifiable proof that gold is actually worth significantly more than a steaming pile of dog shit. It's my guess that most people who read this article will go ballistic, call me names, insist that I'm simply ignorant, have no understanding of "economics" and that the gold standard is the only possible solution to our economic woes. Yet not a single one will be able to offer any real reason why gold is actually "valuable." That's because it isn't.
Radical Critique of Piketty: A Primer to Our Two-Part Book Talk | Nicholas Partyka
Analysis | June 11th, 2014
Over the past couple of months the dominant media in the US and the English-speaking world generally has given a lot of attention to one book in particular. This is interesting because the attention given this particular book is entirely out of keeping with so-called normal expectations. This sense of surprise can be detected in numerous credulous headlines from most if not all the major publications and media outlets regarding the popularity and fiscal success of a six hundred page book by a French economist on income inequality. The book we are talking about here is of course the now well known Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty. This sense of surprise exists for many reasons. A couple obvious ones are that books this long are not typically popular among the general reading public, nor are books on or by economists, and especially economics books on an arcane subject like historical trends in income inequality.
On the Recent Crisis in Venezuela: Rejecting the "Naturalist" Fallacy in the Theory of Economic Crisis | Nicholas Partyka
Theory/Analysis | June 4th, 2014
Let us think about hurricanes for a moment. What this has to do with economic theory will become clear as we proceed. For the moment, please bear with me as I elaborate. I want to make a point here about how economic crisis is typically perceived and understood, or rather misperceived and misunderstood. What I will be presenting here is a view of economic crisis as inherent to market activity; this is in contrast to the dominant view of crisis. Many people both within and outside of the economic profession and the business world understand economic crises similarly to how they understand natural disasters, e.g. hurricanes. In both cases, they see the event as coming from outside the system, as sui generis phenomena.