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.
Neoliberalism's Balancing Act: Shifting the Societal Burden and Tempting Fate | Colin Jenkins
Theory | May 22nd, 2014
As discussed in Part One of this project, regarding the layered appearance of the economic foundation and political sphere, Poulantzas stays within the confines of base-superstructure theory while also extending this notion to emphasize a strict demarcation. This emphasis is seen in the following statement, which is predicated upon a firm economic base: "In this state, political power is thus apparently founded on an unstable equilibrium of compromise." Thus, the political apparatus is viewed as an outgrowth of the inherently fragile economic base formed by capitalist relations (i.e. capital v. labor, private property as a social relation).
The Transformer: One Man's Confrontation with Capitalism and War | William T. Hathaway
Commentary | March 27th, 2014
A friend of mine works as a janitor. After graduating from college he worked as a market researcher and an advertising salesperson, but both jobs soured him on the corporate world. He hated being a junior suit, and the thought of becoming a senior suit was even worse. He finds being a janitor a much better job. He's left alone, it's low pressure, and what he does improves the world rather than worsens it. The pay's lousy but that's standard these days. He loves music, so he loads up his MP3 and grooves to the sounds. Although the work is routine, it's brightened by occasional bits of human interest: used condoms in executive wastebaskets, marijuana butts in the emergency stairwell, a twenty-dollar bill under a desk.
Across 100 Miles of Ocean: Experiments in Capitalism and Socialism | Akio Tanaka
History | February 14th, 2014
The Age of Enlightenment ushered in revolutions in France and the US, but the revolution that really threatened the dominant global order was the revolution mounted by the slaves of French Haiti in 1804. In response to the revolt, France and the US, a nation founded on slave labor and appropriated Indian land, joined forces to suppress the Haitian revolution. The US has intervened militarily in Haiti repeatedly since 1804, most recently in 2010 to maintain the lowest sweat-shop wages in the hemisphere. The Age of Industrialization began with the inventions of the steam engine at the end of the eighteenth century and the internal combustion engine at the end of the nineteenth century. However, both coal and oil produce carbon dioxide which contributes to global warming.
Calibrating the Capitalist State in the Neoliberal Era: Equilibrium, Superstructure, and the Pull Towards a Corporate-Fascistic Model | Colin Jenkins
Theory | February 4th, 2014
Since the capitalist formation of relations between what is perceived as the 'public sector' and the 'private sector,' traditional nation-states and their governing bodies have played a major role as facilitators of the economic system at-large. This became a necessary supplemental component as localized economies, which were dominated by agrarian/plantation life, gave way to industrialization and subsequent mass migration into urban centers, thus introducing new industrial economies based in the manufacturing/production process. With the advent of wage labor came predictable outcomes of "capital accumulation" and a perpetually increasing polarization between the "owning class" and "working class."