Towards a progressive concept of efficiency – Part 2

This is Part 2 of my discussion of how a progressive agenda can escape the straitjacket of neo-liberal thinking and broaden how it presents policy initiatives that have been declared taboo in the current conservative, free market Groupthink. Today, I compare and contrast the neo-liberal vision of efficiency, which is embedded in its view of the relationship between the people, the natural environment and the economy, with what I consider to be a progressive vision, which elevates our focus to Society and sees people embedded organically and necessarily within the living natural environment. It envisions an economy that is created by us, controlled by us and capable of delivering outcomes which advance the well-being of all citizens rather than being a vehicle to advance the prosperity of only a small proportion of citizens.

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    Posted in Demise of the Left | 7 Comments

    Towards a progressive concept of efficiency – Part 1

    Before I present the second part of my discussion about the relevance of re-nationalisation to what I would call a truly progressive policy agenda, we have to take a step backward. I note after the first part – Brexit signals that a new policy paradigm is required including re-nationalisation – there were a few comments posted (and many more E-mails received – apparently readers are happier berating me personally rather than putting their ideas out in the public domain) that I was advocating a return to the ‘bad’ old days of nationalisation where cronyism, inefficiency and trade union bastardry were the norm. The obvious next point was – how can I claim that is progressive and part of the future. In this two part blog (the second part will come tomorrow), I offer a framework for assessing these claims. Today’s blog foscuses on the neo-liberal vision of efficiency and reveals how narrow and biased towards private profit it is. In Part 2 (tomorrow) I will present the progressive vision and how it conditions the way we think of efficiency. Once we break out of the neo-liberal constructs and refocus our attention on Society rather than the individual then the way we appraise policy options also changes – it becomes enriched with new possibilities and understandings. We enter the progressive world and leave behind the austerity nightmare that neo-liberalism has created. We are then able to see how our old conceptions of nationalised industries or public sector job creation are tainted with these neo-liberal biases. And we are then able to see how policy initiatives that invoke scorn from the conservatives and many so-called modern progressives (obsessed with post modern constructs) have a vital role to play in a truly progressive manifesto. I split the discussion into two parts because the blogs are too long as they are.
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      Posted in Demise of the Left | 16 Comments

      The Weekend Quiz – July 16-17, 2016 – answers and discussion

      Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’s Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.
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        Posted in Economics, Saturday quiz | 3 Comments

        The Weekend Quiz – July 16-17, 2016

        Welcome to The Weekend Quiz, which used to be known as the Saturday Quiz! The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention over the last seven days. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
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          Australian labour market – stagnating due to lack of overall spending

          Last month’s Australian labour force data showed what a part-time employment nation we were becoming. The latest labour force data released today by the Australian Bureau of Statistics – Labour Force data – for June 2016 show that employment growth has virtually ground to a halt (although there was positive growth in full-time employment). The Australian labour market has stagnated with low to zero employment growth failing to match the underlying population growth, with the result that unemployment has risen over the last six months. The teenage labour market remains in a poor state and requires urgent policy intervention. Overall, with weak private investment now on-going, the Australian labour market is looking very weak and the Federal government should have introduced a rather sizeable fiscal stimulus in its June 2016 fiscal statement. That is what it should do now it has been re-elected. This should have included a large-scale public sector job creation program which would ensure teenagers regained the jobs that have been lost due to the fiscal drag over the last several years. We won’t be holding our breath!
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            Posted in Labour Force | 6 Comments

            Brexit signals that a new policy paradigm is required including re-nationalisation

            With the new British Prime Minister now indicating that she will push ahead with Brexit and free the nation from the undemocratic imposts of the increasingly dysfunctional European Union, a view that is apparently ‘poisonous’ to some so-called progressive writers, several pro-Remain economists or economic commentators have realised that the game is up for neo-liberalism in Britain. There have been several articles recently arguing (after bitching about the loss of the Remain vote and repeating the catastrophe mantra) that a new economic paradigm is now called for in Britain, based on its new found sovereignty (after it finally exits). It could, by the way, exit through an Act of Parliament without all the Article 50 palaver if it wanted to. That is just a smokescreen. This idea of a new paradigm being required is exactly what Thomas Fazi and I are working on as part of our current book project which is nearing completion. Today, I consider briefly our view that nationalisation has to return as a key industry policy plank for any aspiring progressive political party.
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              Posted in Britain, Demise of the Left, Economics, Eurozone, UK Economy | 37 Comments

              US labour market – some improvement but still soft

              Last week (June 8, 2016), the US Bureau of Labor Statistics published the latest – Employment Situation – June 2016 – and the data shows that “Total nonfarm payroll employment increased by 287,000 in June, and the unemployment rate rose to 4.9 percent” on the back of rising labour force participation. The Household Survey measure showed that employment grew in net terms by 67 thousand (0.04 per cent), which presents a more modest picture than the media reports, that focus on the payroll data, are portraying. Clearly, the 287,000 net jobs added according to the payroll data is a lot better than the 11,000 added according to the same measure in May 2016 (which was revised downwards from 38,000). Further, hours and earnings data suggests a fairly moderate labour market outlook rather than any boom conditions. Broad measures of labour underutilisation also indicate a worsening situation. Underemployment (persons employed part time for economic reasons), which had risen sharply in May (by 468,000) fell by 587 thousand in June, which along with the rising participation rate (a fall in the discouraged workers by 36 thousand), suggests a better state of affairs that was anticipated in May. It remains to be seen whether this renewed jobs growth reduces the bias towards low-pay jobs – which I most recently examined in this blog US jobs recovery biased towards low-pay jobs continues.
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                Posted in Labour Force, US economy | 2 Comments

                Australia now on negative watch – so what!

                I am here to report that the sky is still up there in the sky although a little cloudy today. The power is still on. The rivers are still flowing. And as far as I can tell, the Australian continent isn’t looking like sinking into the ocean on either side. But we have to be warned – that bastion of sagacity and purity Standard & Poor’s put our AAA government bond rating on negative watch last Thursday. The Government is claiming it has to increase the intensity of its austerity plans, economists are being wheeled out for their moment in the media claiming government borrowing will ‘cost more’, and the media is having a picnic on the predictions of chaos and despair. It reminds me of the panic that followed the War of the Worlds broadcast on American CBS radio on October 30, 1938. That broadcast suggested to ‘weak minds’ that there was an invasion from Mars underway and precipitated panic. Similarly, the media is trying to whip a sense of gravity over the S&P decision. The reality is that nothing has happened nor will. The rating is irrelevant and the media should just ignore any press release these corrupt organisations put out. They are only designed to advance the profitability of the agency and should be subject to tight product quality scrutiny. The resulting fines for incompetence would put the companies out of business. It would be better if the government just legislated them into outlaw status immediately.
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                  Posted in Economics, Fiscal Statements | 7 Comments

                  The Weekend Quiz – July 9-10, 2016 – answers and discussion

                  Here are the answers with discussion for this Weekend’s Quiz. The information provided should help you work out why you missed a question or three! If you haven’t already done the Quiz from yesterday then have a go at it before you read the answers. I hope this helps you develop an understanding of modern monetary theory (MMT) and its application to macroeconomic thinking. Comments as usual welcome, especially if I have made an error.
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                    Posted in Saturday quiz | 8 Comments

                    The Weekend Quiz – July 9-10, 2016

                    Welcome to The Weekend Quiz, which used to be known as the Saturday Quiz! The quiz tests whether you have been paying attention over the last seven days. See how you go with the following questions. Your results are only known to you and no records are retained.
                    Read the rest of this entry »

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                      Posted in Saturday quiz | 5 Comments